China announced a 14.9% jobless rate for people between 16 and 24 in December, using the new method, which excludes students. The statistics bureau stopped publishing the politically sensitive figure last year, after it reached 21.3% in June.
It came as the National Bureau of Statistics announced that China’s economy hit growth targets in 2023, following the end of the country’s years of pandemic-era isolation.
The change in methodology came after youth unemployment surged following an economic slowdown in 2023. Regulatory crackdowns on sectors like technology and education, which typically employed a younger workforce, also made jobs harder to find.
Previously, the youth unemployment rate counted students who worked at least one hour a week as employed, and those who said they wanted jobs but could not find them as unemployed. It’s not clear how the methodological change affects the stated unemployment rate.
“Calculating the unemployment rate by age group that does not include school students will more accurately reflect the employment and unemployment situation of young people entering society,” the statistics bureau said in a statement, adding that students should focus on their studies instead of finding jobs.
It said that the 16 to 24-year-old population includes some 62 million school students, over 60% of people that age.
Excluding school students from the jobless rate will allow authorities to provide youths with “more precise employment services, and formulate more effective and targeted employment policies,” the bureau said.
The bureau also published an unemployment rate for 25 to 29-year-olds for the first time, to reflect the employment situation of university graduates. That jobless rate, which also excludes students, stood at 6.1% in December.
China’s overall urban unemployment rate stood at 5.1% in December, inching up slightly from 5.0% for the months of September through November.
China is under pressure to boost job creation and bolster employment, with official estimates that the number of university graduates will hit a record high of 11.79 million this year.