Workers in an automobile factory in Beijing. Photo: iStock

Factory activity in China improved slightly in September, according to official data published Wednesday, showing a small rebound in the economy ahead of the week-long National Day public holiday.

The closely watched Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) is a key gauge of manufacturing activity in the world’s second-largest economy, which has largely bounced back after plunging in February because of tough coronavirus measures.

In September, the PMI figure increased slightly to 51.5 after slipping to 51.0 in the previous month. Any figure above the 50-point mark represents growth, while below it signals a contraction.

Zhao Qinghe, a senior statistician at the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), said this month’s figures, with increases in several key indices, demonstrated a “steady recovery” and a pre-holiday consumption boom.

But Zhao also noted that some industries, such as apparel, textile and wood processing, reported insufficient market demand.

“We also see that, although overall manufacturing demand has increased, industrial recovery is uneven … the global pandemic has not been fully and effectively controlled, and there are still uncertain factors in China’s imports and exports,” he said.

In February, the index plunged to 35.7 points after the coronavirus brought much of China to a standstill.

Non-manufacturing PMI came in at 55.9 points – an increase of 0.7 percentage points from August, showing further signs of an economic rebound. 

This month’s new export order index and import index were both positive for the first time, at 50.8% and 50.4% respectively – a rise of 1.7 and 1.4 percentage points from August.

Business indices for industries including railway transportation, air transport, catering and telecommunications were at 60% or above.