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Long Run Trends in Unemployment and Labor Force Participation in China

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  • Shuaizhang Feng
  • Yingyao Hu
  • Robert Moffitt

Abstract

Unemployment rates in countries across the world are typically positively correlated with GDP. China is an unusual outlier from the pattern, with abnormally low, and suspiciously stable, unemployment rates according to its official statistics. This paper calculates, for the first time, China’s unemployment rate from 1988 to 2009 using a more reliable, nationally representative household survey in China. The unemployment rates we calculate differ dramatically from those supplied in official data and are much more consistent with what is known about China’s labor market and how it has changed over time in response to structural changes and other significant events. The rate averaged 3.9% in 1988-1995, when the labor market was highly regulated and dominated by state-owned enterprises, but rose sharply during the period of mass layoff from 1995- 2002, reaching an average of 10.9% in the subperiod from 2002 to 2009. We can also calculate labor force participation rates, which are not available in official statistics at all. We find that they declined throughout the whole period, particularly in 1995-2002 when the unemployment rate increased most significantly. We also report results for different demographic groups, different regions, and different cohorts.

Suggested Citation

  • Shuaizhang Feng & Yingyao Hu & Robert Moffitt, 2015. "Long Run Trends in Unemployment and Labor Force Participation in China," NBER Working Papers 21460, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:21460
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Shuaizhang Feng & Yingyao Hu, 2013. "Misclassification Errors and the Underestimation of the US Unemployment Rate," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(2), pages 1054-1070, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Jie Chen & Mingzhi Hu, 2019. "What types of homeowners are more likely to be entrepreneurs? The evidence from China," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 52(3), pages 633-649, March.
    2. Fu, Shihe & Liao, Yu & Zhang, Junfu, 2016. "The effect of housing wealth on labor force participation: Evidence from China," Journal of Housing Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(C), pages 59-69.
    3. Haiyan Ding & Hui He, 2018. "A Tale of Transition: An Empirical Analysis of Economic Inequality in Urban China, 1986-2009," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 29, pages 106-137, July.
    4. Chong-En Bai & Chang-Tai Hsieh & Zheng Michael Song, 2016. "The Long Shadow of a Fiscal Expansion," NBER Working Papers 22801, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Asadullah, M. Niaz & Xiao, Saizi & Yeoh, Emile, 2018. "Subjective well-being in China, 2005–2010: The role of relative income, gender, and location," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 83-101.
    6. Ding Lu, 2017. "China's Growth Slowdown and Prospects for Becoming a High-Income Developed Economy," Asian Economic Papers, MIT Press, vol. 16(1), pages 89-113, Winter/Sp.
    7. Iyer, Lakshmi & Meng, Xin & Qian, Nancy & Zhao, Xiaoxue, 2019. "Economic transition and private-sector labor: Evidence from urban China," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(3), pages 579-600.
    8. You, Jing & Yi, Xuejie & Chen, Meng, 2016. "Love, Life, and “Leftover Ladies” in Urban China," MPRA Paper 70494, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J64 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Unemployment: Models, Duration, Incidence, and Job Search
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
    • O53 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Asia including Middle East

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