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China's retail sales take a hit amid pandemic

2022-05-16 HKT 13:18
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  • Retail sales on the mainland have suffered their largest monthly decline since March 2020. File photo: AP
    Retail sales on the mainland have suffered their largest monthly decline since March 2020. File photo: AP
Retail sales and industrial production on the mainland slumped to their lowest growth in two years amid Covid-19.

According to data from the National Bureau of Statistics, retail sales shrank 11.1 percent on-year in April to 2.95 trillion yuan. That's the largest drop since March 2020.

For the first four months of the year taken as a whole, sales went down 0.2 percent from a year ago.

Industrial production sank 2.9 percent in April on-year, the worst performance since February 2020, reflecting damage from shuttered factories and transportation woes.

In the first four months of the year, output rose 4 percent year on year.

In line with the decline in industrial output, China processed 11 percent less crude oil in April than a year earlier, with daily throughput falling to the lowest since March.

Fixed-asset investment, meanwhile, fell 0.82 percent from March while climbing 6.8 percent year on year in the first four months to 15.35 trillion yuan.

Urban unemployment rose to 6.1 percent from 5.8 percent in March, the highest since February 2020 when it stood at 6.2 percent.

The jobless rate in 31 major cities reached 6.7 percent.

Beijing aims to keep the unemployment rate below 5.5 percent in 2022. Last week, authorities announced measures to help young people find jobs, given that a record number of fresh graduates are expected to enter the market this year.

"In April, the epidemic had a big impact on economic operations," National Bureau of Statistics spokesman Fu Linghui told reporters on Monday, adding that the outbreak had a "significantly larger-than-expected" effect.

But he stressed that the hit would be short term and a gradual recovery was on the cards.

The central government has set a full-year GDP growth target of around 5.5 percent but Nie Wen, Shanghai-based economist at Hwabao Trust, said the extended lockdown in Shanghai and prolonged testing in Beijing are adding to the concerns about growth over the rest of the year.

"It's still possible to achieve a GDP growth of around 5 percent this year if Covid curbs are only going to affect the economy in April and May. But the virus is so infectious, and I remain concerned about growth going forward." (Additional reporting by Xinhua, AFP and Reuters)