China Premier Li Keqiang warns of 'grave' jobs situation as Covid-19 lockdowns bite

China reported 4,384 new Covid-19 cases for May 7. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - Chinese Premier Li Keqiang warned of a "complicated and grave" employment situation as the country imposed sweeping lockdowns to contain Covid-19 outbreaks.

Mr Li instructed all government departments and regions to prioritise measures aimed at helping businesses retain jobs and weather the current difficulties, according to a statement late on Saturday (May 7), which cited the Premier's comments in a nationwide teleconference on employment.

"Stabilising employment matters to people's livelihoods. It is also a key support for the economy to operate within a reasonable range," Mr Li said, urging businesses to resume production with virus-fighting measures in place.

China's top leaders doubled down on the nation's Covid-19-Zero strategy last week, warning against any attempts to question the lockdown-dependent approach even as economic activity contracted sharply in April amid factory closures and supply chain disruptions.

China reported 4,384 new Covid-19 cases for May 7. Shanghai, which has been under some form of lockdown for weeks, recorded 3,975 new infections, down from 4,000-plus daily infections earlier.

The financial hub announced on Saturday it would postpone entrance examinations for colleges and high schools until July, while some of the city's biggest manufacturers have said they are trying to restart plants.

Beijing logged 62 new cases as the authorities in the capital scramble to contain a wider spread. Its eastern Chaoyang district, home to embassies and offices of multinationals including Apple and Alibaba Group, ordered the closure of some businesses providing non-essential services, such as gyms and movie theatres, to minimise infections.

Mr Li reiterated at the meeting that China will also promote the healthy development of Internet platform companies to support employment.

Mr Chen Yulu, vice-governor of the People's Bank of China, said the central bank would put a greater focus on stabilising growth and increase support for the real economy.

In a Xinhua interview published on Saturday, Mr Chen also said the authorities will help smaller banks increase their lending capability through the sale of perpetual bonds.

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