Job market signals rebound in March as businesses resume work

By Cui Can
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, March 23, 2020
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A worker works on the production line of a silk company in Shiquan county, northwest China's Shaanxi province, March 21, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

As the ongoing impact of COVID-19 persists across the globe, there are signs of life in China’s recruitment market after a tough start to the year.

According to a recent survey by employment website Zhilian Zhaopin, during the first week after the Spring Festival holiday ended on Feb. 2, job postings by companies on the site in 38 major cities decreased by 71.7% from the same period last year, and the résumés posted by job seekers dropped by 83.3%. However, as the outbreak becomes contained and businesses start returning to work, the year-on-year decline in job postings and the number of résumés have slowed to 34.4% and 38.9%, respectively, in the sixth week after Feb. 2.

The survey also shows that traditional training institutions, and hotels and restaurants were the most affected at the start of 2020. Between the first and sixth weeks after Feb. 2, the increase in job postings from these two types of businesses were 36% and 74%, respectively, the lowest among all types of businesses during the same period.

Data released by the National Bureau of Statistics at a press conference on March 16 shows that the surveyed unemployment rate in China's urban areas stood at 6.2% in February, which was up 1 percentage point from the previous month.

NBS spokesperson Mao Shengyong attributed the rise of surveyed urban unemployment rate to the decreased demands for workers amid the epidemic. He stressed that employment will continue to improve as companies resume production.

Meanwhile, certain sectors saw less impact from the outbreak than others. The Job postings for accounting, finance, human resources, and law positions in the first week after Feb. 2 accounted for 6.18% of all job postings during that week, which was 1.5 percentage points higher than the same period last year. Job postings for real estate and construction positions increased by 1.46 percentage points year on year, which the report attributed to the need to build healthcare infrastructure for treating patients amid the outbreak.

College graduates are experiencing more difficulty to find jobs this year as their number reaches a record-breaking 8.74 million, while opportunities and openings have either dwindled or been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

In order to mitigate the impact on employment, the Ministry of Education has announced measures to ensure job creation, and facilitate the employment of college graduates.

A recruiter is testing a video interview system for online campus recruitment. [Photo/Xinhua]

A number of leading Chinese tech companies have adopted "contactless" recruitment activities to avoid people gatherings and reduce the risk of infection. Perfect World Games, a Chinese video game developer, started its spring campus recruitment in mid-March. Applicants to the company can complete all application-related procedures online, and qualified candidates would be interviewed over the internet.

According to Zhilian's survey, over 52% of the surveyed college graduates said they hope the site would provide online video-interviewing services, while more than 80% of the employers said they would use video-interviewing services. 

As of March 18, a total of 147 online job fairs had been held on, which is expected to post more than 270,000 job openings from over 70,000 companies. The usage of video interview saw a week-to-week growth rate of 123% on average since Feb. 10.

In addition, for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the Chinese government has launched a series of policies, including subsidies as well as cuts and exemptions of tax and social insurance payments, to help them through the epidemic and lower the unemployment rate. 

Compared to the first week after Feb. 2, SMEs that have fewer than 100 workers saw the highest growth of employment in the sixth week. Zhilian's survey shows that the number of job openings posted by companies with 20 to 99 employees increased by 140.34%, and the companies with fewer than 20 people grew by 131. 17%.

"In a bid to stabilize employment, we need combined efforts from the government, companies, and job seekers themselves," said Pan Helin, executive director of the Digital Economy Academy of the Zhongnan University of Economics and Law. Pan said job seekers could consider taking part in online vocational training programs to further improve their skills and meet market demand.

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