What is China’s Unemployment Rate? 4.1% For what month, what year? Doesn’t matter the answer is still 4.1%. That’s a slight exaggeration but for the last 3 years the unemployment rate has been 4.1% almost every month. Indeed, since 2002 the official unemployment rate has varied between 3.9% and 4.3%, an absurdly smooth series.
In contrast to the unemployment rate, China’s GDP growth rate has had massive swings. As a piece in Quartz puts it the unemployment rate exhibits an eerie stillness.
A new NBER working paper uses a newly available household survey and finds a very different series–the China-UHS series shown in black below. According to these estimates China’s unemployment rate shot up to around 11% in 2002 and has been nearly that high at least until 2009 when unfortunately the new series ends.
So how high is Chinese unemployment today? No one knows but it could well be closer to 10% than to 4.1%.
Keep an eye on China and don’t be surprised by the unexpected. In China it’s not just the unemployment rate that is more volatile than it appears.