COVID-19 Pandemic and Unemployment: Evidence from Mobile Phone Data in China

47 Pages Posted: 28 Dec 2020 Last revised: 13 May 2021

See all articles by Teng Li

Teng Li

Sun Yat-sen University

Panle Jia Barwick

Cornell University - Department of Economics

Yongheng Deng

Wisconsin School of Business, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Xinfei Huang

Sun Yat-sen University

Shanjun Li

Cornell University - School of Applied Economics and Management

Date Written: December 26, 2020

Abstract

Based on mobile phone records for 71 million users and location tracking information for one million users over two years, this study examines the labor market impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in China’s Guangdong province, whose GDP is larger than all but the top 12 countries in the world. Using a standard difference-in-differences framework, our analysis finds that the pandemic increased unemployment by 27-63% from late January 2020 to the end of September 2020, much higher than the official statistics. Females, workers older than 40, and migrants are more affected. Cities that rely more on export or have a higher share of GDP in the hospitality industry but a lower share in the finance and healthcare industries experienced a more pronounced increase in unemployment. Five months after the full reopening, employment has not recovered to the pre-pandemic level. This lingering impact reflects the global nature of the pandemic and the interconnectedness of the world economy.

Keywords: COVID-19, Unemployment, Mobile Phone

JEL Classification: E24, H12

Suggested Citation

Li, Teng and Barwick, Panle Jia and Deng, Yongheng and Huang, Xinfei and Li, Shanjun, COVID-19 Pandemic and Unemployment: Evidence from Mobile Phone Data in China (December 26, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3755371 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3755371

Teng Li

Sun Yat-sen University ( email )

135, Xingang Xi Road
Guangzhou, Guangdong 510275
China

Panle Jia Barwick

Cornell University - Department of Economics ( email )

414 Uris Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853-7601
United States

Yongheng Deng

Wisconsin School of Business, University of Wisconsin-Madison ( email )

4110 Grainger Hall
975 University Avenue
Madison, WI 53706
United States
+1 (608) 262-4865 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://bus.wisc.edu/faculty/yongheng-deng

Xinfei Huang

Sun Yat-sen University ( email )

135 Xingang West Road
Guangzhou, Guangdong 510275
China

HOME PAGE: http://isbf.sysu.edu.cn/cn/szll/szll01/szll01a/11034.htm

Shanjun Li (Contact Author)

Cornell University - School of Applied Economics and Management ( email )

248 Warren Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
United States

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