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China industrial output slows, unemployment rises

2019-03-14 HKT 13:12
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  • Output growth at the mainland's factories and workshops for the first two months slowed to 5.3 percent on-year, from 5.7 percent in December. File photo: AFP
    Output growth at the mainland's factories and workshops for the first two months slowed to 5.3 percent on-year, from 5.7 percent in December. File photo: AFP
The mainland's industrial output slowed during the first two months of the year as unemployment rose, official data showed on Thursday, while some indicators showed that a slowdown in the world's second largest economy was stabilising.

The figures from the National Bureau of Statistics come as Beijing and Washington appear to be nearing a deal to resolve their painful trade spat.

Output growth at China's factories and workshops for the first two months slowed to 5.3 percent on-year, from 5.7 percent in December, a multi-year low and short of forecasts.

"We must be aware that there are many uncertainties and instabilities from the external environment," said NBS spokesman Mao Shengyong. "The economy faces downward pressure," he told reporters.

The mainland's normally steady unemployment rate rose to 5.3 percent in February, from 4.9 percent in December, with the NBS saying it had expected worse numbers.

Premier Li Keqiang last week laid out a lower growth target of 6.0-6.5 percent this year, from 6.6 percent growth in 2018, which was already the slowest pace for almost three decades.

Policymakers huddled in Beijing have talked up plans to support the economy, announcing tax cuts, fee reductions, and financing support. A plan to cut value-added tax for manufacturers will help the struggling sector.

In January and February car sales continued to fall and manufacturing activity sunk.

The latest data showed growth in retail sales for January-February remained flat from December, rising 8.2 percent on-year and slightly above forecasts from economists polled by Bloomberg News.

However, retail sales remain near a 15-year low, said Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics in a note, adding that "the near-term outlook still looks downbeat". (AFP)