China's economic growth is the lowest in a decade. A trade war with the U.S. drags on with no end in sight. In this uncertain environment, the country's largest batch of college graduates is hitting the job market.
Even the best and brightest among the record 8.3 million graduates this year are struggling to land the prestigious jobs they had hoped for. More than 20 students from top Chinese and overseas universities told Bloomberg News that they are pessimistic about the job market. Some have deferred graduation or taken internships rather than jobs because they can't find the right role. Two said companies have withdrawn offers.
Jobs are a key issue for China's leadership, which is extremely sensitive to any social unrest that large-scale unemployment could trigger.
While official figures show employment is holding up, data from recruiters show positions for fresh graduates have fallen and popular sectors including technology and finance have come under pressure.
Openings for graduates fell 13% this spring while job seekers also declined by 5%, according to online recruiter Zhaopin Ltd.
The ratio of job vacancies to job seekers overall dropped to 1.68 in the first three months of this year, the lowest level since early 2015, when Zhaopin began releasing the data.
"China's job market will continue to see downward pressure next year as the country's economy keeps slowing down and the China-U. S. trade war is unlikely to end before the 2020 U.S. presidential election," said Hong Kong-based Bloomberg economist Qian Wan. "Finance jobs might improve next year as the financial industry keeps opening up, tech firms could potentially see more headwinds."
High-paying jobs, which the government relies on to foster a shift to consumption-based growth, are also harder to come by.
The proportion of entry-level jobs paying more than 10,000 yuan ($1,450) a month tracked by the Mastercard Caixin BBD China New Economy Index fell to 8.7% in May, the lowest in about two years. The measure looks at human capital and technology-intensive industries that the government has identified as strategic.
"The job market next year largely depends on external factors, mainly the trade war," said Chen Qin, chief economist for Business Big Data. "I think it will rebound a bit."
Che and Hu write for Bloomberg.