While Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said the country should focus on maintaining employment amid the conronavirus outbreak, about 5 million people in China lost their jobs in the first two months of this year according to data released by the country’s National Bureau of Statistics.
The bureau said urban unemployment rate surged in February to 6.2%, the highest on record, compared with 5.3% in January and 5.2% in December.
At end-2019, 442.47 million people were employed in urban areas and at least 4.67 million workers have since lost their jobs, according to official numbers.
While the officially reported resumption of work rate in China was about 60% for SMBs and higher for larger firms by last week, the resumption doesn’t mean businesses operate at full capacity.
Retail sales plunged
The coronavirus outlook also resulted in lower retail sales . According to official figures, retail sales of consumer goods plunged 20.5% year-on-year in January and February.
Online sales of physical goods recorded a growth rate of 3%, which is about a fifth of total retail sales.
In the same period, industrial production dropped 13.5% and fixed-asset investment 24.5%.
What’d be the GDP growth rate this year?
While China normally announces its annual GDP growth target in its yearly National People’s Congress, this year’s meeting — originally scheduled to be held on March 5, has been indefinitely delayed due to the virus outbreak.
According to a report by the South China Morning Post, China aims for a growth rate of “around 6%”. Last year, the country’s GDP grew 6.1%.
Liu Shijin, an adviser to the People’s Bank of China and a prominent economist close to the Development Research Centre of the State Council, was cited by the report as estimating that the growth rate will be about 5% this year.