Job seekers in Guangzhou and Shenzhen are bracing for hard times as the number of vacancies shrinks and salaries drop amid the global financial crisis. Companies were also preparing to lay off staff in the coming months to cut costs, the Southern Metropolis News reported yesterday. About 70,000 people, including unemployed migrant workers and university graduates, attended a job fair in Shenzhen last week that offered only 25,000 jobs. About a quarter of the firms taking part said they would hire fewer people than last year because of the financial crisis. In Guangzhou, only 58.7 per cent of enterprises said they planned to hire in coming months, a survey by the Guangzhou Labour and Social Security Department found. The survey interviewed 397 major enterprises with a total workforce of 260,000. Last year's survey showed that 70 per cent of the firms were preparing to hire staff after the Lunar New Year holiday. The number of vacancies to be filled by companies that are hiring workers will account for only 7.12 per cent of their total employment this year, compared with 11 per cent last year. The survey found that 20 per cent of companies were planning layoffs, either this month or next, in order to cut costs. The average monthly pay of an unskilled worker has dropped to 1,050 yuan (HK$1,193) this year, from 1,160 yuan last year. Zhang Baoying, who was in charge of the survey, said she expected Guangzhou's job market to be particularly grim. She was referring to the millions of migrant workers looking for work and 330,000 university students expected to graduate this year. 'Because of the economic situation, university graduates have started looking for jobs already, while in previous years they started in April and May,' she told the Southern Metropolis News. Guangdong authorities said they expected millions of unemployed migrant workers to pour into the province in search of work, and warned that prospects for finding employment were slim. About 10.25 million workers left for the Lunar New Year holiday. The provincial labour authorities expect 9.7 million to return and that about 20 per cent will find it extremely difficult to find work. Guangdong officials have repeatedly warned the public that this year will be a tough one economically.