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COVID-19

China’s economy rebounds from COVID-19, growing 3.2% in the second quarter

Sabri Ben-Achour, Jennifer Pak, and Alex Schroeder Jul 16, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
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For comparison, China's economy shrank 6.8% in the first quarter of 2020. Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

China’s economy rebounds from COVID-19, growing 3.2% in the second quarter

Sabri Ben-Achour, Jennifer Pak, and Alex Schroeder Jul 16, 2020
For comparison, China's economy shrank 6.8% in the first quarter of 2020. Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

China reports that its economy grew 3.2% in the second quarter from the same time last year. That makes it the first major economy to rebound since COVID-19 hit.

For comparison, China’s economy shrank 6.8% in the first quarter. Marketplace China correspondent Jennifer Pak has more on this from Shanghai. The follow is an edited transcript of her conversation with Marketplace’s Sabri Ben-Achour.

Sabri Ben-Achour: So what does an economic rebound look like on the streets of Shanghai?

Jennifer Pak: On the surface, it looks like everything is back to normal, except most people are still wearing face masks. Popular shops and restaurants — those that are still open that is — are full on weekends, but I’m starting to see a number of small shops posting signs, looking for someone to take over their lease. So times are a bit tough.

Ben-Achour: And 3.2% year over year, that’s a big turnaround from the almost 7% contraction in the first quarter alone. How did China manage that?

Pak: Well, it’s partly due to the authorities being quite aggressive about containing the coronavirus — of course, after initially dragging their feet. They went from sealing off whole cities and provinces with high infection rates to now doing widespread testing and tracing. For example, there was an outbreak recently in Beijing, and that’s what they did. So now what we’re seeing are road construction projects, factories churning out more products. But there isn’t that much demand for that stuff, especially in the U.S. or Europe. So millions of people are out of work. Officials say unemployment for June still hovers close to 6%.

Ben-Achour: Well, 6% is far better than double-digit unemployment rates in the U.S. Does this mean that the U.S. and the rest of the world could rely on Chinese consumers?

Pak: Maybe not. That unemployment figure it doesn’t really account for millions of workers from the countryside who are in the cities and jobless. And, unlike the U.S., China’s government has not been giving cash handouts to its citizens. People are watching what they spend, so retail sales remain fairly weak, falling 1.8% last month compared to a year earlier.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What are the details of President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief plan?

The $1.9 trillion plan would aim to speed up the vaccine rollout and provide financial help to individuals, states and local governments and businesses. Called the “American Rescue Plan,” the legislative proposal would meet Biden’s goal of administering 100 million vaccines by the 100th day of his administration, while advancing his objective of reopening most schools by the spring. It would also include $1,400 checks for most Americans. Get the rest of the specifics here.

What kind of help can small businesses get right now?

A new round of Paycheck Protection Program loans recently became available for pandemic-ravaged businesses. These loans don’t have to be paid back if rules are met. Right now, loans are open for first-time applicants. And the application has to go through community banking organizations — no big banks, for now, at least. This rollout is designed to help business owners who couldn’t get a PPP loan before.

What does the hiring situation in the U.S. look like as we enter the new year?

New data on job openings and postings provide a glimpse of what to expect in the job market in the coming weeks and months. This time of year typically sees a spike in hiring and job-search activity, says Jill Chapman with Insperity, a recruiting services firm. But that kind of optimistic planning for the future isn’t really the vibe these days. Job postings have been lagging on the job search site Indeed. Listings were down about 11% in December compared to a year earlier.

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