Analysts polled by Reuters had predicted China's GDP would shrink by 6.5% in the January to March quarter, compared to a year ago. The
forecasts from 57 analysts polled ranged from a 28.9% contraction to a
4% expansion. China's economy grew 6% in the last quarter of 2019.
Here are some of the key figures released Friday, on a year-over-year basis:
Industrial production dropped 8.4% in the first quarter, and marked a 1.1% decline in March.
Fixed-asset investment fell 16.1% in the first quarter.
Retail sales fell 19% in the first quarter. Sales of consumer goods fell 15.8% in March, while online sales of physical goods rose
The urban unemployment rate in March was 5.9%, according to the government's survey. That's down from a record high of 6.2% in February,
data from the statistics bureau showed.
Employment is a national priority and is stable overall, but the pressure on jobs is still considerable due to canceled orders, Mao
Shengyong, a spokesman for the National Bureau of Statistics, said
Friday at a press conference, according to a CNBC translation of his
China is facing tremendous pressure amid increasing uncertainties and instabilities from the coronavirus outbreak, Mao said, adding the
country is also facing new difficulties and challenges in resuming work
and production.More than half of China extended a Lunar New Year holiday
by at least a week in an effort to blunt the spread of the virus.
Nearly all major industrial enterprises have resumed work, while the
return-to-work rate for smaller businesses has topped 80%, according to
However, business activity is still not back to normal, especially in the services industries, and the spread of the virus overseas has led
to a drop in demand for China's exports. Looking ahead, Mao said he
expected China's economic growth to improve. He pointed out that data
for March was better than that of the first two months of the year, and a
continuation of that trend would likely result in better data for
April, and the second half of the year.
Better data in March could be misleading since it was only then that factories were able to re-open and fulfill some orders from February,
said Bo Zhuang, chief China economist at TS Lombard.
"What is really important was that before March, everybody was expecting China to have a V-shaped recovery because it was actually
(about) China supply disruption (initially), but now we are seeing this
demand shock," Zhuang told CNBC. "The internal demand shock was massive.
That tells us that after coronavirus, even after the lockdowns have
been lifted, people are cautious to consume. Shopping malls are open but
they are not consuming, and that is the key."