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China to expand scope of employment survey nationwide this year

[BEIJING] China will expand its employment survey to include the whole country in the second half of 2015, up from 65 cities and counties currently, sources with direct knowledge told Reuters on Thursday.

It also will begin publishing a more comprehensive series of indicators on unemployment, labour market participation and other data next year.

China has two official unemployment measures. One is a passive methodology which measures registered urban unemployment in 31 cities. It has been used for years but was widely considered inaccurate as it left out major parts of the country as well as migrant workers.

The other, launched in 2013, actively surveys employment in 65 cities, but only data from 31 of those cities has been used to calculate the rate; even so the two rates frequently diverge. "The data series will include unemployment rates among different groups, labour participation rates and employment data; it will be more scientific and more accurately reflect the true condition of China's economy," one of the sources said.

The National Bureau of Statistics could not be reached for comment.

The news comes in the midst of widespread scepticism about China's employment statistics, which have remained relatively robust even as economic growth looks set to slow to its lowest level in a quarter of a century, putting downward pressure on industrial growth and profitability.

Chinese regulators have publicly admitted as much, and have been testing improved survey methodologies in preparation for producing a more detailed figure.

Survey-based employment data released on Wednesday showed unemployment stood at 5.1 per cent in February, compared to 4.09 per cent for all of 2014.