China's urban registered unemployment rate jumped for the first time in five years to 4.2 percent as of Dec 31, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security said on Tuesday.
The jobless rate, which excludes migrant workers and farmers, was 4 percent in the first three quarters of 2008, Yin Chengji, the ministry's spokesman, said.
China has raised its unemployment target to 4.6 percent this year, which would be the worst since 1980, as worsening global financial crisis takes its toll on the country's export-led economy, Yin said.
During the fourth quarter of last year, the number of registered jobless urbanites jumped to 8.86 million, 560,000 more than that in the third quarter.
However, the ministry maintained that the current unemployment situation in the country was "better than expected" and was confident to bring it under control this year.
"We are fully prepared for this year's grim job market outlook despite the global financial crisis," Yin said.
"The situation will get stable if the country's economy rebounds in the second half of this year and the job stimulus package works well."
The ministry said it aims to create jobs for 9 million new urban laborers, 5 million laid-off workers, and 1 million people, who are facing difficulties finding work, this year.
"Improving the employment situation is our top priority and everything we do is aimed at achieving the goal," he said.
More than 10 million migrant workers lost their jobs in the third quarter of 2008, after falling demand overseas forced the closure of around 670,000 factories, especially in the coastal regions, the ministry said in an earlier report.
The ministry warned again that fresh university graduates are bound to face a hard time securing jobs, with some 7.1 million entering the job market this year.
Since last year, the central government has implemented a series of economic and job stimulus measures to boost domestic demand and create more jobs.
But experts have warned that there is pressure mounting on the job market owing to the economic downturn, and "labor officials should be cautious and alert".
"The current employment situation is very severe," Chen Guangjin, an expert on employment issues with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said.
"The market cannot meet the increasing demand as lots of firms have closed down. If the government pours more investment in the labor-intensive sector, the situation can get better."