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China unveils more steps to support jobs as virus jolts economy

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s cabinet has unveiled more steps to support jobs as the world’s second-largest economy is expected to shrink for the first time in four decades because of the coronavirus outbreak.

China’s jobless rate rose to a record high of 6.2% in February, and any rapid rise in unemployment could pose a big challenge to China’s stability-obsessed leaders.

China will speed up targeted tax and fee cuts for firms, return more unemployment insurance premiums to firms that save jobs and subsidize small firms to hire college graduates with employment contracts longer than a year, the cabinet said in a statement.

The government will quicken the resumption of operations at key firms and projects, especially in manufacturing, construction, logistics and public services, the cabinet said.

For small and medium-sized firms with few or zero layoffs, the maximum return of unemployment insurance premiums could be raised to 100% of the amount paid in the previous year, the cabinet said.

China will also help migrant workers to find jobs and support flexible employment, allow more street vendors and markets, stalls and other business outlets, it added.

Premier Li Keqiang said China would spare no effort to help small, medium-sized and private businesses to survive, as the world’s second-largest economy is jolted by the coronavirus crisis.

He said fiscal and monetary policies that have been rolled out should aimed more towards small companies, Li said, according to a statement posted on the cabinet’s website.

Small and private firms in China account for 80% of urban employment.

(Reporting by Lusha Zhang, Roxanne Liu and Kevin Yao; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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