China's GDP Contracts for First Time Since 1992

By Ryan Gandolfo, April 17, 2020

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China’s first quarter gross domestic product (GDP) figures, published by the National Bureau of Statistics, reveals the magnitude to which the country’s economy suffered over the first three months of 2020.

China’s economy contracted by 6.8% in the first quarter compared to a year earlier, marking the first decline in quarterly GDP since the country started publishing its data in 1992. The contraction was greater than expected, with analysts forecasting a 6.5% decline in a poll by Reuters. 


Efforts to contain the virus, which was first reported in Wuhan, led to a nationwide shutdown with many businesses forced to temporarily cease operations. By April, most Chinese companies have resumed work, including those in hard-hit Hubei province, with people returning to the daily grind, traffic seemingly back to pre-outbreak levels and construction projects underway.

Road construction in Guangzhou on April 3. Image via Ryan Gandolfo/That’s

With many across the country having undergone mandatory or self-quarantine at some point during the quarter, retail sales of consumer goods dropped by 19% in the first three months compared to the same period in 2019.

The F&B industry’s revenue was reportedly down 44.3%, as restaurants around the country were forced to rely on takeout and delivery while dine-in services were suspended for an extended period. Necessity goods such as food and medicine were up 4.1% and 2.9%, respectively, last quarter.

Investments in infrastructure, manufacturing and real estate also took a beating, with manufacturing in many parts of the country either halting operations or continuing at a reduced capacity in February and March. Meanwhile, investments in ecommerce and specialized high-tech were up 39.6% and 36.7%, respectively.

As for the employment market, the National Bureau of Statistics reported 2.29 million jobs were created in the first quarter, and the unemployment rate across the country was at 5.9% in March. The figure is down 0.3% from February.

The latest economic data from China paints a bleak picture for countries that have yet to reopen their economies as the battle against COVID-19 continues. As of April 17, there were more than 2.15 million confirmed cases and 144,000 deaths reported across the globe. On a more positive note, recoveries have surpassed 500,000, and about 96% of active cases are considered mild.

[Cover image via @adliwahid/Pixabay]

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