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BEIJING: Unemployment in China rose and youth unemployment spiked in the first months of the year, data showed Tuesday, as a surge of coronavirus cases rattled businesses and forced closures.

The unemployment rate in cities edged up to 5.5 percent by the end of February, compared with 5.1 percent in December, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said Tuesday.

Job seekers aged 16-24 were struggling with a 15.3 percent increase in unemployment.

German unemployment rate falls back to pre-pandemic level

But Beijing reported better-than-expected retail sales and industrial output in January and February, according to the statistics agency. Retail sales for the first two months rose 6.7 percent on-year, it said.

This was well above the 3 percent forecast by Bloomberg analysts.

Petroleum products and gold, silver and jewellery saw the biggest price jumps.

“Overall, the momentum of January-February recovery remained relatively healthy, though we must acknowledge that the external environment is still complicated and severe, and the Chinese economy faces many risks and challenges,” NBS spokesman Fu Linghui said.

China releases combined data for January and February to avoid distortions from the Lunar new year holiday, which can fall in either month depending on the year.

Industrial production was up 7.5 percent for the first two months, beating analysts’ expectations of a 3.9 percent growth.

Fixed asset investments grew by 12.2 percent, with investment in the high-tech manufacturing sector growing by 42.7 percent.

Infrastructure investment grew at a modest 8.1 percent and investment in real estate also picked up despite a drop in home prices over the past two months.

Last week, Premier Li Keqiang announced an unusually modest target of around 5.5 percent growth for 2022 – the lowest since 1991 – and warned global “uncertainty” will slow China’s growth.

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