(Corrects youth jobless rate in paragraph 7)

By Ellen Zhang, Liangping Gao and Ryan Woo

BEIJING (Reuters) -China still faces structural employment issues and overall pressure on jobs has not eased, the human resources minister said on Saturday, as the slowing economy braces for another record number of college graduates in 2024.

The job market has seen a good start this year, particularly in the artificial intelligence and big data segments, said Human Resources Minister Wang Xiaoping, adding that 32,000 job fairs have been held so far.

Still, authorities will strengthen policy support to improve youth employment and help small private firms, Wang told a news conference on the sidelines of an annual parliament meeting in Beijing.

China could see 11.79 million college graduates this year, she added, reiterating an education ministry forecast.

At the start of the parliament session this week, the government unveiled its 2024 target for economic growth, aiming for an expansion of “around 5%”. China’s gross domestic product grew 5.2% last year.

But headline indicators have tended to underplay the tension in its vast job market, especially among young people, including the millions of college graduates seeking work each year.

More than one in five of the roughly 100 million Chinese aged 16 to 24 were unemployed in June 2023, the latest figure before statistics bureau officials abruptly suspended the series.

China resumed publication of the data in January, but it now excludes college students, and put youth unemployment at 14.9% in December.


Authorities are under pressure to create enough jobs, particularly as ever more college graduates chase a shrinking pool of white-collar jobs in a weak economy after the COVID19 pandemic.

China has tried to steer them to vocational and technical jobs as the world’s second-largest economy builds its advanced manufacturing sector and relies less on the West amid technology curbs imposed by the United States and others.

But lack of skilled talent remains a hurdle for the sector.

Wang said China needs to spur young people to acquire technical skills and work in factories, in its efforts to nurture talent.

This year, China aims to create more than 12 million new urban jobs and keep its survey-based urban unemployment rate at around 5.5%.

Last year 12.44 million urban jobs were added, with urban unemployment at 5.2% on average, official data shows.

(Reporting by Ellen Zhang, Liangping Gao and Ryan Woo; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Sam Holmes)

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