BEIJING, July 25 (Xinhua) -- China's urban registered unemployment rate stood at 4.1 percent at the end of June, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (MOHRSS) said Wednesday.
The rate remained unchanged for the eighth consecutive quarter during the April-June period, and rested below the government's 4.6-percent annual target set for this year.
China created 6.94 million new jobs in urban areas in the first half, fulfilling 77 percent of its annual target of creating 9 million new jobs, MOHRSS spokesman Yin Chengji said at a press conference.
A total of 2.94 million laid-off workers were reemployed in the first six months, meeting 59 percent of the annual target to have 5 million unemployed workers move back into jobs, Yin added.
Last weekend, Premier Wen Jiabao warned of new employment pressures amid China's economic slowdown, saying the country will face a more complicated and more severe situation in creating sufficient jobs.
The negative impact of the global financial crisis on China's employment will linger for quite some time, leading to an imbalance between labor supplies and demand, Wen said.
China's economy grew by 7.6 percent in the second quarter of this year, marking the slowest pace of expansion in three years due to sluggish external and domestic demand as well as the country's efforts to cool the property market.
The country's central and western regions were a major force in creating jobs in the first half as their economies have kept growing more than 10 percent despite the overall slowdown, according to the spokesman.
Labor-intensive industries have been gradually moving to the central and western areas from eastern coastal regions in recent years, as part of the country's efforts to upgrade its industries.
In central China's Henan province, Foxconn, Hainan Mazda Motors Co. and Gree Electric Appliances Co. built manufacturing bases and employed nearly 600,000 local people altogether, accounting for almost half of the province's newly-added rural surplus labor force.
Foxconn's plant in Zhengzhou, capital city of Henan, employed 130,000 people in mid-January, and the number is expected to rise to 234,000 at the end of this year.
However, experts have warned that job cuts may be inevitable if the external demand remains sluggish.
Yin said the country will face bigger employment pressures in the second half as the impact of the economic slowdown on job creation might appear later in the year because of a delay effect.
To boost employment, Yin promised more supportive measures for small- and mid-sized enterprises which are struggling with rising labor and raw material costs as well as plunging orders, as they account for more than 75 percent of the country's employment.
Lowering tax for small companies will be the most effective measure to boost employment, which will also be viably backed by the country's rising fiscal revenues, said Zhou Tianyong, professor of the Party School of the Communist Party of China Central Committee.
"The government should provide better job services and offer more training to reduce unemployment," said Mo Rong, a researcher from the Labor Science Research Institute under the MOHRSS.
By the end of June, 16 provincial-level regions had raised their minimum wage standards, with an average increase of 19.7 percent year-on-year, Yin said, adding that 12 provinces had issued the guideline for minimum wages and the benchmark line grew about 14 percent.
Currently, the southern city of Shenzhen has the highest minimum wage of 1,500 yuan per month.