BEIJING : More than half a million Chinese people were thrown out of work in the last three months of 2008 as the impact of the global financial crisis deepened, the government said Tuesday.
As of December 31, 8.86 million urban residents were registered as jobless, up 560,000 from the end of the third quarter, ministry of human resources spokesman Yin Chengji told a press conference.
"It shows the impact of the international financial crisis on China's employment situation," he said.
Partly as a result of the fourth-quarter jobless spike, the unemployment rate in Chinese cities rose in 2008 for the first time since 2003, according to data from the ministry.
The urban jobless rate stood at 4.2 per cent at the end of last year, up from 4.0 per cent from the end of 2007, Yin said.
The rise reflected an economy slowed down by the financial crisis, said Tang Min, deputy secretary of the China Development Research Foundation, a think-tank linked to the State Council, or Cabinet.
The actual size of China's jobless population may well be much bigger than the official figure because it does not include millions of migrant workers and university graduates, Tang said, according to Xinhua news agency.
"The figure looks all right, but the real situation could be much more serious," he said.
Beijing has unveiled numerous measures to maintain and create jobs, including financial aid to companies and orders to state-run firms to ease on job cuts, after President Hu Jintao warned of a "grim" jobs situation in 2009.
Despite the measures, the government has scaled down its ambitions, targeting the creation of nine million jobs this year, one million fewer than last year, said Yin.