BEIJING (AP) — Manufacturing activity in the world’s second largest economy grew at a slower pace in January compared to the previous month, according to an official government measure, as the country’s strict “zero-tolerance” COVID-19 measures put a dampener on economic activity.

The purchasing manager’s index, tracked by China’s National Bureau of Statistics, slipped to 50.1 from 50.3 in December, continuing a third month of weak growth. A separate PMI by the business magazine Caixin showed on Sunday that manufacturing activity fell even further, contracting from 50.9 in December to 49.1 in January.

PMI is tracked on a 100-point scale in which numbers above 50 show activity expanding and below show a contraction.

New orders, which are measured in a sub-index, also fell, dropping to 49.3, according to the official measure. New export orders activity also continued to contract, although at a slightly slower pace in January.

Chinese exports have been a consistent bright spot throughout the pandemic.

China saw multiple COVID-19 outbreaks in the past month and implemented strict lockdowns starting in December and continuing into the new year that barred people from leaving their homes. The lockdowns have affected up to 20 million people.

Zhao Qinghe, senior statistician at NBS, said in a statement Sunday that China faces multiple challenges, including a complicated economic environment and outbreaks of COVID-19 across the country.

Non-manufacturing PMI growth also declined, from 52.7 in December to 51.1 in January, with construction and service sectors both seeing weaker growth.


Associated Press researcher Henry Hou contributed to this report.