The number of people missing from China's massive earthquake has risen abruptly by more than 1,000 state media reported Monday.

The overall toll reached 18,522 on Sunday, an increase of 1,125 from the day before, according to the Beijing Youth Daily.

The reason for the steep rise was that migrant workers have started reporting their relatives missing to authorities, after gradually returning to their homes in Sichuan province from elsewhere in China.

The latest confirmed death toll from the devastating May 12 earthquake was 69,181 on Sunday, unchanged from the day before, according to the paper.

Sichuan, a relatively poor province in southwest China, relies on export of labor to other parts of China for a large part of its income.

Cities and towns were flattened by the earthquake, which measured 8.0 on the Richter scale, leaving millions homeless.