Using an extensive panel of Chinese firms from the Annual Tax Survey and relying on labor unrest as shock to local social stability, we show that state-owned enterprises (SOEs) react to nearby labor unrest by creating additional employment at the expense of firm performance. Each SOE exposed to unrest hires 3% more employees, which is a sizeable aggregated effect. This effect is larger when labor unrest occurs in the same industry as the exposed SOEs, when local governments have sound fiscal budgets, and when governing mayors have stronger promotion incentives. SOEs obtain more fiscal benefits when they absorb additional labor. In contrast, non-SOEs do not react to labor unrest, and their performance is unaffected. Similar effects are detected when we use the population of Chinese listed firms. This paper provides evidence that SOEs internalize the goal of maintaining social stability and contribute to the growth of the non-state sector.