Up to 41 million mainland workers have lost their jobs during the financial crisis - 40 per cent of total global lay-offs - and 23 million of them remain out of work, according a study by a central government think tank. The number of lay-offs far exceeds the government's official estimates. In recent months there have been signs of economic recovery and the government has seen an improvement in the labour market, but the 2009 Green Book of Population and Labour , compiled by researchers under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, paints a gloomier picture. The team, led by economist Professor Cai Fang , director of the academy's Institute of Population and Labour Economics, has published a report annually since 2000. A collapse in the export sector at the end of last year triggered the closure of many factories, traditional employers of migrant workers from rural areas. Last month the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security said that just 16.5 million people had lost their jobs due to the global crisis: nine million urban residents, three million college graduates and 4.5 million rural migrant workers. In a news conference to brief on the think tank's report, Professor Tang Min , the deputy director general of the China Development Research Foundation, said that its estimated 41 million lay-offs meant that about 40 per cent of the job losses caused by the global financial crisis were in China. Tang, the former chief economist of Asian Development Bank, China, did not elaborate or give details on global figures for comparison. The central government aims to create nine million jobs this year. It announced a four trillion yuan stimulus package to revive growth late last year. The Green Book said the stimulus had failed to make employment a top priority. It outlined three investment models and the impact each would have on job creation. Based on the traditional model, a four trillion yuan stimulus injection would create 44.82 million jobs, but under the central government's current model it would create 51.35 million jobs. However, the study calculated that if employment were made the top priority - for example, ahead of GDP-boosting infrastructure projects - up to 72.36 million jobs could be created. Professor Wang Dewen , one of the authors, citing the research report, said: 'That means that the employment-oriented plan would create 61 per cent more jobs than the traditional model, and 41 per cent more than the current plan.' Over the weekend, a ministerial-level official in charge of agriculture said that about 10 million migrant workers had found jobs in cities in recent months. Chen Xiwen , director of the Office of the Central Rural Work Leading Group, said 150 million migrant workers had left their hometowns and villages to take up work in city factories by the end of June, which he said was the highest number in history. The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security had said that of the total 225 million farmers- turned-workers across the nation at the end of last year, 140 million worked outside their hometowns. Despite the government's claims, the mainland's broader employment picture is far from rosy. The unemployment rate has remained at 4.3 per cent in the first half of 2009, and while officials pledged to keep it under an official target of 4.6 per cent, state media have said this is the highest unemployment level since 1980.