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China urban jobless rate drops to 4.04 pct at end-Sept

Friday, 25 Oct 2013 | 1:52 AM ET

BEIJING, Oct 25 (Reuters) - China created 10.7 million jobs in cities in the first nine months, reducing the urban jobless rate to 4.04 percent at the end of September from 4.1 percent three months earlier, the country's labour ministry said on Friday.

The urban jobless rate is China's only official unemployment indicator, but analysts say it grossly underestimates the true level of unemployment as it excludes about 260 million migrant workers from its surveys.

China's economy is on track to post its slowest growth in more than a decade in 2013. This has fanned worries that pressure on the job market could get acute and prompt the government to launch supportive measures, as employment is crucial for social stability.

Yet officials believe China's labour market has been holding up relatively well.

"The job market situation is relatively stable and employment is seeing steady growth in the first three quarters," Yin Chengji, the spokesman of the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, told a media briefing.

Yin also said that during the first nine months, 24 of China's 32 provinces raised minimum wages by an average of 18 percent.

China's government has mandated that minimum wages rise at least 13 percent a year during the course of the current five-year plan, which runs to 2015.

Yin added that Shanghai workers enjoy the highest minimum monthly wage, at 1,620 yuan ($270), while workers in Beijing and Xinjiang get the highest hourly pay of at least 15.2 yuan.

The government has pledged to create 85 million jobs in urban and rural areas between 2012 and 2015 while holding the jobless rate under 5 percent, underscoring its resolve to stave off any unrest that may flare up as China's economy slows. ($1 = 6.0820 Chinese yuan)

(Reporting by Aileen Wang and Jonathan Standing; Editing by Richard Borsuk)