"Please come to my company, please!" YIWU, China--China's teeming migrant masses are calling the shots these days. Millions of Chinese, battling inflation and soaring food costs, are job-hopping like never before. This is proving to be a major headache for manufacturers, especially in coastal regions like Zhejiang province, where this city is situated. A public job placement office here looked more like an auction house than a recruitment center on Monday following the end of the Chinese New Year holiday. A woman, who had hoisted a cardboard sign that read 1,600 yuan (about 20,000 yen, or $240) for a monthly starting salary, scratched out the figure and replaced it with 1,700 yuan. "We cannot attract anybody unless we raise salaries higher than last year's levels," said the woman, who was trying to recruit workers for a spinning factory. Xu Shulong, a 30-year-old at the recruitment section of a manufacturer of shopping bags, acknowledged that competition to hire factory workers is growing more fierce. "We cannot afford to be picky about people's educational backgrounds or job experience," Xu said. "We'll take anybody, as long as they are aged between 18 and 40." Xu lamented that only 30 of about 80 workers at the factory who returned to their home have come back to work so far after the New Year holiday. Yiwu is a major manufacturing base for a whole range of goods sold at Japan's 100-yen shops. The situation unfolding here illustrates the escalating competition for factory workers in an increasingly tight labor market. Living costs have soared since last autumn, prompting many Chinese workers to look for better-paying jobs. The rapid economic development of inner regions created a new job market, which intensified competition for factory workers with coastal cities. China's labor market is a seller's market--more so than last year, which was marked by a string of strikes by workers demanding higher pay. Guangdong province in southern China close to Hong Kong is said to be short of 1 million laborers. Hundreds of thousands of laborers are needed in each of many other coastal cities, according to some estimates. The Chinese government, eager to avoid social unrest, is pushing to raise wages. Emulating the path taken by Japan in the 1960s, China aims to double workers' salaries over the next five years or so. The move is partly intended to transform China's export-led economy, shored up by cheap labor, into one spearheaded by domestic consumption with raised income. According to the Chinese Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, 30 of China's 31 provinces, directly controlled cities and autonomous regions raised minimum pay last year. The average increase was 22.8 percent. Many cities, including Shanghai, announced that they will raise wages by at least 10 percent again this year. The working-age population--those aged 15 through 64--is expected to peak in 2015. But the seller's market applies only to factory workers. It is quite a different story with college graduates, who are struggling to land jobs. This shows that China's economy has not yet evolved from a labor-intensive structure, according to economists. Officials at the Shaoxing city government in Zhejiang province and recruiters of local companies wasted no time after the New Year holiday to secure a pool of migrant workers for the province. On Feb. 9, the first day back to work, one group of officials and recruiters took off for Gansu province, about 2,000 kilometers to the west. Another group headed for the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, which is close to the border with Vietnam. Factories in coastal region are inundated with orders for products, buoyed by China's strong exports. But many fear they will miss delivery dates if they cannot acquire enough workers. The groups of recruiters ventured further into China's vast interior to scout locations deemed underdeveloped or developing with a big reserve of potential workers. According to Jinri Zaobao (Today's Morning Post) newspaper in Zhejiang province, companies in Gansu province are vying with more than 100 companies based in areas outside of Shanghai and elsewhere in search of workers. The Shaoxing group's offer of 2,000-3,000 yuan a month, including overtime pay, didn't prove attractive. The offer in part paled in comparison to a report on apple growers in the province raking in more than 50,000 yuan in annual income on the back of a steep rise in fruit prices in recent months. At Fushikang, a manufacturer that rolls out products such as Apple Inc.'s iPhone and has 450,000 on the payroll in Shenzhen alone, laborers making 3,000 yuan a month as take home pay are not a rarity. At the train station of Chongqing, one of four cities under the direct control of Beijing, representatives of three Taiwanese companies in the information technology industry were trying to recruit workers for their factories in the city earlier this month. Jiang, a man in his 40s and who was on his way back to Zhejiang province to work, peppered one of the representatives with questions about the working conditions. He said he sought the information for his 20-year-old unemployed daughter, Yan, who lives in Chongqing. Jiang, who has spent more than two decades as a migrant worker, earns a monthly salary of 5,000 yuan at a shipyard. He says his employer is so worried about labor shortage that he gave him round trip expenses for the first time to ensure that Jiang would return to work after the New Year break. But Jiang said he wants his daughter to work in the city. "Unlike before, people can now choose where they want to work," he said. Yan agreed. "I want to stay here with my mother," she said. The minimum wage in Chongqing is 870 yuan, double the figure of five years ago. Still, it is about 20 percent less than what is the norm in coastal cities. Even Fushikang's starting pay of 2,000 yuan, including overtime, is about 20 percent less than in its factories in coastal areas. Ye, a 26-year-old who earns 2,500 yuan a month at a sweater factory in Guangzhou in Guangdong province, agreed to be interviewed by a company representative. "It is acceptable," said Ye, who has spent 10 years working away from home, referring to the proposed salary offer. "It's time I returned to my hometown," Ye said. "Prices are cheaper and I have my family and friends."