China’s economy in worst downturn since ’60s in virus battle

China faces a drawn-out struggle to revive an economy that suffered its biggest contraction since possibly the mid-1960s after millions of people were told to stay home to fight the coronavirus.

The world’s second-largest economy shrank by 6.8% from a year earlier in the quarter ending in March after factories, offices and shopping malls were closed to contain the outbreak, official data showed Friday. Consumer spending, which supplied 80% of last year’s growth, and factory activity were weaker than expected.

China, where the pandemic began in December, is the first major economy to start to recover after the ruling Communist Party declared the virus under control. Factories were allowed to reopen last month, but cinemas and other businesses that employ millions of people still are closed.

There are signs that after an “initial bounce” as controls ended, “the recovery in activity has since slowed to a crawl,” said.