A traffic police officer prepares to check a truck at a service station near Shanghai, which has ordered stricter restrictions on travel in and out of the city as China battles the most severe spread of Covid since the early days of the epidemic in 2020.
Yin Liqin | China News Service via Getty Images
BEIJING – China’s first-quarter GDP grew faster than expected despite the impact of Covid lockdowns in parts of the country in March, according to data released by the National Bureau of Statistics on Monday.
First-quarter gross domestic product rose 4.8%, beating expectations for a 4.4% increase from a year ago.
Fixed-asset investment for the first quarter rose 9.3% from a year ago, beating expectations for an 8.5% growth. Industrial production in March rose 5%, topping forecasts for 4.5% growth.
However, retail sales in March fell 3.5% more than expected from a year earlier. Analysts polled by Reuters had expected a decline of 1.6%.
Starting in March, the country struggled to contain the worst outbreak of Covid since the initial phase of the pandemic in 2020. At that time, lockdowns in more than half of the country had resulted in 6.8% contraction in first-quarter growth from the previous year.
“We must realize that with the increasing complexity and uncertainty of the domestic and international environment, economic development is facing great difficulties and challenges,” the office said in a statement.
The urban unemployment rate rose in March to 5.8%, up from 5.5% in February. The unemployment rate for 16-24 year olds remained much higher at 16%.
Retail sales grew 3.3% in the first quarter of last year, but the apparel, auto and furniture subcategories still posted a decline in the period.
Within retail sales, jewelry fell the most and was down 17.9% in March from a year ago. The data showed that it was followed by a decrease of 16.4% in catering services and 12.7% in clothes and shoes.
“We must coordinate efforts to prevent and control Covid-19, economic and social development, make economic stability our top priority and strive for progress while ensuring stability, and place the task of ensuring stable growth in a more prominent position,” the office said. She said.
Although the economic numbers released for January and February beat expectations, the numbers for March are beginning to reflect the impact of stay-at-home orders and travel restrictions around economic centers such as The coastal city of Shanghai.
Exports, the main driver of Chinese growth, rose more than expected 14.7% in March, but imports fell unexpectedly, down 0.1% from a year ago, according to data released last week.
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