China’s jobless rate rose to 6.1% in April, the highest level since the 6.2% peak seen in the early part of the Covid-19 pandemic in February 2020.
It comes as widening lockdowns led to a sharp slowdown in activity for the world’s second largest economy.
Official figures also show retailers and manufacturers were hit hard.
Full or partial lockdowns were imposed in dozens of cities in March and April, including a long shutdown of the commercial centre Shanghai.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang recently described the country’s employment situation “complicated and grim” following the worst outbreaks of the virus since 2020.
Still, the government aims to keep the jobless rate below 5.5% for this year as a whole.
The rise in unemployment came as lockdowns had an impact across the Chinese economy.
Retail sales saw the biggest contraction since March 2020 as they shrank by 11.1% in April from a year earlier, according to China’s National Bureau of Statistics.
That was much worse than March’s 3.5% drop and missed the economists’ expectations of a 6.1% fall.
At the same time industrial production fell by 2.9% from a year earlier, as measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus had a major impact on supply chains.
That was the largest decline since February 2020 and marked a reversal of the 5% gain in March.
However, Shanghai on Monday set out plans for the return of more normal life from the start of next month and the end of a lockdown that has lasted more than six weeks and contributed to the sharp slowdown of China’s economy.
Deputy Mayor Zong Ming said the reopening of the financial, manufacturing and trading hub would be carried out in stages, with movement curbs largely to remain in place until 21 May to prevent an increase of infections, before a gradual easing.
Editing by Omotola Oguneye