Two million job ads missing? China's 51job criticizes 'improper' research

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese recruitment service provider 51job JOBS.O on Monday rejected claims that more than 2 million job ads had disappeared from its website this year due to an economic slump, saying a Chinese securities firm was smearing economic prospects.

A recruiter waits for job seekers at a job fair at Liberation Square in Shijiazhuang, Hebei province, China February 25, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

In a statement posted on its official social media account on Wechat, 51job said Wuhan-based Tianfeng Securities 601162.SS had made an "improper" analysis of the platform's data using a web crawler program in a research note published in November.

Tianfeng said it found the number of job listings on 51job shrank from 2.85 million to just 830,000 in six months, from April to September.

“The content of that research is contrary to facts,” 51job said in a statement, criticizing the research approach as loose and irresponsible, stressing it owns multiple recruitment websites besides the main 51job website.

It cited the company’s robust earnings as evidence that the numbers were false. In both the second and third quarters, 51job’s revenue from online recruitment rose more than 30 percent from a year earlier, it said.

It did not give details on actual changes of job listings, however.

Tianfeng Securities could not be immediately reached by Reuters for comment.

“Our research department has always strictly observed relevant regulations and rigorously and objectively analyzed data,” Tianfeng was quoted as saying in a response to 51job after being contacted by its lawyers, according to 51job’s statement.

51job said Tianfeng had declined to make a public apology after deleting the research note from its own platform.

Tianfeng’s share fell 2.66 percent on Monday from the previous trading day.

Tianfeng’s findings had misled the market and raised widespread concerns about employment stability and the health of the broader economy, 51job wrote in its statement.

“Who gave Tianfeng Securities the guts to do this?” it wrote, adding it had not been asked to verify the numbers before the research was posted.

China’s economy has been under growing pressure lately from a combination of domestic deleveraging policies, a campaign to shut polluting industries, and a protracted trade dispute with the United States.

Stability-minded policymakers have vowed to prevent extensive job losses, including rolling out measures to reduce costs for struggling companies that choose not to cut staff.

China aims to maintain its urban survey-based jobless rate below 5.5 percent in 2018, while keeping the registered unemployment rate, another official gauge, below 4.5 percent.

Many analysts say, however, that the government figure is an unreliable indicator of national employment conditions as it measures only employment in urban areas and does not take into account millions of migrant workers.

Reporting by Yawen Chen and Ryan Woo; Additional reporting by Stella Qiu