China's government will no longer release youth unemployment statistics, it said Tuesday, but the mood among young people online and on the streets of Beijing left no doubt the situation was dire.
Recently, the figure has hit a record every month, with 21.3 percent of young people jobless in June.
The July data was expected Tuesday but the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said it would no longer release age group-specific unemployment numbers, citing the need to "further improve and optimise labour force survey statistics".
"Translation: Let me find a new statistical method to lower the unemployment rate," wrote one sceptical user on the social media platform Weibo.
"In reality, I don't dare to imagine (what) the unemployment rate must be. (The NBS) can't even make it up," read another comment.
"I don't release (the figures) = no unemployment," wrote one user tagged in the southwestern city of Chongqing.
A hashtag relating to the announcement of the suspension had 190 million views on Weibo on Tuesday afternoon.
On the streets of the capital on Tuesday, college student Li Nuojun told AFP she thought her job prospects were bleak.
"My major in university is in environmental design, but with the rise of AI, I don't have much hope in the design industry," said the 18-year-old.
All her friends were expecting to be unemployed after graduating, she said, though they still had some years of study left.
"I'm very worried," she said. "When thinking about finding a job, I become very anxious, I just don't want to think about it for now."
"Young people do face greater pressure in finding a job, like my cousin and his classmates, they prefer to continue their studies after college," said 35-year-old Guo, an IT worker.
"They are preparing for postgraduate exams, and a lot of them will take civil service exams."
Even for those with jobs, the economic outlook is hostile.
A 29-year-old woman who gave her name as Xue said she had friends who were struggling to change jobs at the moment.
"Some of them kept sending resumes for a month and have had several interviews chances, but the results are not so good," she said.
"The salary they could offer is average and there will be a lot of overtime work. The job market is always a rat race."