Chinese Job Sites Suffer as Global Crisis Slows Hiring

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Chinese online recruitment site said fourth-quarter revenue declined, echoing losses by its competitors as clients hit by the economic crisis cut back hiring.

51job's revenue tumbled 8.1 percent to 196.2 million yuan (US$26.2 million) and revenue from online recruitment fell to 72.7 million yuan, a drop of 5.4 percent compared to the same period one year earlier.

"Hiring activity slowed materially in the fourth quarter as many corporate customers scaled back their recruitment efforts and cut spending in the face of worsening global economic conditions," 51job CEO Rick Yan said in a statement.

"The current market sentiment among employers in China continues to be highly cautious," he said.

The downturn has also hit China's other two major recruitment Web sites, and ChinaHR generated losses of US$3.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2008, according to parent company Monster Worldwide's most recent financial report.

Seek, an Australian recruiting firm, posted second half losses of A$10.7 million (US$6.8 million) linked to its majority stake in Zhaopin, it said in a financial report last week.

Chinese officials have warned of potential unrest and students have flooded job fairs around the country as unemployment rises. The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) estimates more than a quarter of China's 6 million new graduates could be unable to find work this year.

But government efforts to boost the economy have favored the country's biggest companies, leaving small and medium-sized firms of the kind that might populate online recruitment sites to flounder, said Yuan Gangming, an economist at CASS.

"We can predict based on the current situation that unemployment will not lighten up," Yuan said. "It is only going to get worse."

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