China dumps explosive ‘youth’ jobless numbers

Beijing suspends crucial data release as the world’s second-largest economy takes another massive hit

If you hate the numbers, make them disappear. In another move to conceal the chaos that masquerades as China’s economic policy, the ruling Communist Party has suspended the release of “youth unemployment” figures.

It came amid a deluge of data that reinforced the view that the world’s second-largest economy is still on life-support after emerging from three years of “zero-Covid” isolation.

Last week, China Factor reported that the real jobless total for those aged between 16 to 24 was as high as 46%, according to Zhang Dandan, of the prestigious Peking University. 

But official data for June came in at just 21.3%, even though the numbers shattered record levels. Beijing has since suppressed July’s figures. 

On Tuesday, National Bureau of Statistics spokesman Fu Linghui ended up speaking in riddles when he told a news briefing in Beijing that “calculating” unemployment among young people needed to be “reconsidered.”

“Starting from this August, the release of urban unemployment rates for youth and other age groups across the country will be suspended,” he said.

[If] I don’t announce it, then nobody is unemployed.

Weibo reaction

What was released:

  • Retail sales grew 2.5% in July compared to the same period last year when China was in the grip of rolling Covid-19 lockdowns. 
  • But the numbers were down on June’s 3.1% rise, underlining weak consumer spending. 
  • Industrial production did increase by 3.7% year-on-year but dropped from 4.4% in June.
  • As for overall urban unemployment, it inched higher to 5.3% last month compared to June’s figures of 5.2%.

Delve deeper: Chinese social media was abuzz with the jobless ban. “Covering your mouth and closing your eyes, can that really solve problems,” one person asked on the Twitter-like Weibo site. Another said: “As long as I don’t announce it, then nobody is unemployed.”

Between the lines: The jobless data has always been shrouded in mystery as it does not include rural regions or the 295-million migrant workforce. They have been the backbone of the country’s “economic miracle,” yet they are treated as second-class citizens in major cities. 

Big picture: Beijing has admitted the country faces “challenging” times, which is a major understatement. Local government debt threatens to spiral out of control while the property market is on the brink of collapse. The sector accounts for as much as 30% of China’s GDP. 

What was said: “So much of people’s wealth is tied up in property, so when they see values go down, they decide to save and not spend,” Dexter Roberts, the author of The Myth of Chinese Capitalism and a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, told Insider last week.

China Factor comment: It is nearly impossible to find a sector of the economy that is not struggling amid President Xi Jinping’s political dogma campaign.