Sunday, February 8, 2009

Chinese Unemployment

While America is being all self-centered about its economic problems, there’s news out of China (see “China’s Migrants See Jobless Ranks Soar” in the February 3 issue of The Wall Street Journal) that they have 20 million newly unemployed people – and that’s just migrants from rural areas.

The article does not put this in perspective well. China has – maybe – 4 times the population of the U.S. Yet, U.S. unemployment is up by about 3 million in this recession.

What China is seeing is quite a bit more than 4 times what we have in the U.S., so things are worse there.

Further, the Chinese labor force is a smaller share of the population – it’s a lot easier to be a two-earner couple with the services and amenities we have in the U.S., so again, things are worse there.

Lastly, this is just out of China’s internal migrant labor force – at 150 million people, that’s probably about a third of their total labor force.

In sum, they have a proportionally higher number taken out of a fraction of their labor force.

And yet … we will continue to see published estimates of how quickly the Chinese economy is growing (I saw that they were down to about 6% last month). That number and the unemployment number can’t both be right.

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