China industrial output, retail sales surge in pandemic bounceback

China’s industrial output and retail sales surged in the first two months of the year, official data showed Monday, underscoring the country’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic that forced activity to a halt.

This photo taken on March 12, 2021 shows workers at a factory for Xinwangda Electric Vehicle Battery Co. Ltd,  which makes lithium batteries for electric cars and other uses, in Nanjing in China’s eastern Jiangsu province. STR / AFP

Industrial production spiked more than expected at 35.1 percent on-year, the biggest bounce in decades, while retail sales did better than expected as well, growing 33.8 percent.

Both indicators plunged in the early months of 2020 after Covid-19 — which went on to ravage the world economy — surfaced in central China and spread rapidly around the country.

But the world’s second-largest economy also became the first to bounce back after imposing strict lockdowns and virus control measures, clocking a full-year economic growth of 2.3 percent.

The unemployment rate, however, rose to 5.5 percent in February, up from 5.2 percent in December, said the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

Experts have warned that the real rate of unemployment might be higher due to the high number of workers in unofficial employment.

Data for January and February are released together to eliminate the influence of uncertainties brought about by China’s Lunar New Year holiday, which typically falls within this period.

Output in the first two months this year, however, was also 16.9 percent higher than the corresponding period in 2019 — before the coronavirus outbreak — said authorities.

The NBS said Monday that the latest year-on-year surge was in part due to distortions from last year’s “low base in the same period”.

“After removing the base effect, the growth of main indicators is stable and macro indicators are in a reasonable range,” said the NBS.

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