A worker is seen at an auto factory in Qingzhou, Shandong province on Sept 13, 2021. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

BEIJING – China's economy posted stable growth in 2021 despite challenges including sporadic epidemic resurgences and a complicated external environment, official data showed Monday.

The country's gross domestic product expanded 8.1 percent year-on-year to 114.37 trillion yuan ($18 trillion) last year, the National Bureau of Statistics said.

The pace was well above the government target of "above 6 percent," and put the two-year average growth at 5.1 percent, the data showed.

In the fourth quarter, the country's GDP expanded 4 percent year-on-year.

China's economy has continued stable recovery in 2021, leading the world in both economic development and epidemic control, the NBS said, while warning of the triple pressure of demand contraction, supply shocks and weakening expectations amid an increasingly complicated external environment.

Final consumption contributed 65.4 percent to the GDP expansion, while net exports contributed 20.9 percent, said NBS head Ning Jizhe at a press conference.

"China's growth was among the fastest in major economies in the world last year," said Ning, adding that the country's GDP is expected to account for more than 18 percent of the global total.

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In the fourth quarter of 2021, the GDP expanded 4 percent year-on-year, said the National Bureau of Statistics

Industrial output up 9.6 percent

Meanwhile, China's value-added industrial output, an important economic indicator, went up 9.6 percent year-on-year in 2021, NBS data showed.

The figure brought the average growth rate in the past two years to 6.1 percent, according to the NBS.

In December alone, the industrial output grew 4.3 percent from a year earlier, and 0.42 percent from November.

The value-added industrial output measures the activity of designated large enterprises with an annual business turnover of at least 20 million yuan.

In a breakdown by ownership, the output of state-holding enterprises climbed 8 percent in 2021, and that of joint-stock companies went up 9.8 percent.

The production and supply of electricity, heat, gas and water recorded a year-on-year growth of 11.4 percent, the fastest among the three major industrial sectors.

The output of the manufacturing sector increased 9.8 percent, while the mining output rose 5.3 percent, the NBS added.

An employee of Dongbei Special Steel Group Co Ltd measures the size of a steel billet at a factory in Dalian, Liaoning province, in February 2021. (WANG YANG / FOR CHINA DAILY)

Industrial capacity utilization rate up

Also, the industrial structure continued to improve last year, with the output in high-tech manufacturing and equipment manufacturing industries expanding by 18.2 percent and 12.9 percent, respectively.

The industrial capacity utilization rate came in at 77.5 percent in 2021, up 3 percentage points from the previous year, according to Monday's data.

The utilization rate hit 77.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2021, falling 0.6 percentage points from the same period of 2020.

Among the three major sectors, the mining sector's utilization rate in Q4 stood at 77 percent, increasing 2 percentage points from the same period in 2020.

The utilization rate of manufacturing reached 77.6 percent while that of the production and supply of utilities stood at 75.4 percent.

A worker sorts parcels with goods purchased during China's Singles Day shopping festival in a distribution center in Zhengzhou, Henan province, on Nov 11, 2021. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Retail sales top 44 trillion yuan

China's retail sales of consumer goods, a major indicator of consumption growth, hit 44.08 trillion yuan in 2021, the NBS said.

Sales of consumer goods rose 12.5 percent year-on-year in 2021, NBS data showed, putting the average annual growth for the past two years at 3.9 percent

In December, the total retail sales of consumer goods grew by 1.7 percent year-on-year, according to Monday's data.

It is a milestone for consumption to reach 44 trillion yuan, the NBS head said, adding that the final consumption has contributed 65.4 percent to China's 2021 economic growth, which shows the important role of the domestic market.

Retail sales in urban areas reached 38.16 trillion yuan last year, up 12.5 percent year-on-year, while those in rural areas increased 12.1 percent year-on-year.

In 2021, the online retail sales continued to show robust expansion and topped 13 trillion yuan, up 14.1 percent year-on-year, the data showed.

People go shopping at the Universal Beijing Resort in Beijing on Sept 2, 2021. (PHOTO /IC)

Resident nominal disposable income up 9.1 percent

The country's per capita disposable income stood at 35,128 yuan in 2021, up 9.1 percent year-on-year in nominal terms, NBS data showed.

After deducting price factors, per capita disposable income rose 8.1 percent from the previous year.

China's retail sales of consumer goods, a major indicator of consumption growth, rose 12.5 percent year-on-year in 2021, NBS data showed

The growth of resident income was basically in line with the expansion of the Chinese economy and the income gap between urban and rural residents continued to narrow last year, said the NBS head in the same press conference.

Separately, urban per capita disposable income came in at 47,412 yuan, up 8.2 percent in nominal terms and 7.1 percent in real terms, while income in rural areas stood at 18,931 yuan, up 10.5 percent in nominal terms and 9.7 percent in real terms.

In 2021, China's per capita consumption spending reached 24,100 yuan, up 13.6 percent year-on-year in nominal terms and 12.6 percent in real terms.

Urban unemployment rate drops 

The country's job market remained generally stable in 2021, with the surveyed urban unemployment rate standing at 5.1 percent, 0.5 percentage points lower than the same period in the previous year, said the NBS.

A total of 12.69 million new urban jobs were created during the year, an increase of 830,000 compared with 2020, said Ning.

Last year's new urban jobs over-fulfilled the annual goal and the surveyed urban unemployment rate was lower than the around 5.5-percent target, according to Ning.

Ning attributed the stable job market partly to the job creation fueled by China's continuous economic recovery and development as well as the country's pro-employment policy which had a positive effect on the employment of college graduates and rural migrant workers.

New employment forms spurred job creation, while more employment in certain sectors such as wholesale and retail also contributed to the overall employment stability, according to Ning.

In December, China's surveyed urban unemployment rate was 5.1 percent, 0.1 percentage points lower than the same period in the previous year.

Overseas returnees communicate with employers at a job fair during the 19th Conference on International Exchange of Professionals in Shenzhen, south China's Guangdong province, April 24, 2021. (MAO SIQIAN / XINHUA)

Specifically, the surveyed unemployment rate among those aged between 16 and 24 came in at 14.3 percent, while the rate among those aged between 25 and 59, the majority of the labor market, stood at 4.4 percent, data showed.

The surveyed unemployment rate in 31 major cities stood at 5.1 percent in December.

The surveyed urban unemployment rate is calculated based on the number of unemployed people who have participated in the employment survey in urban areas, including migrant workers in cities.

China should strengthen the implementation of the job-first policy in its pursuit of high-quality development and better leverage the role of economic growth in boosting employment, according to a tone-setting economic meeting held in December.

Fixed-asset investment went up

The country's fixed-asset investment went up 4.9 percent year-on-year in 2021, NBS data showed.

Last year, the fixed-asset investment amounted to over 54.45 trillion yuan, the NBS added.

The growth came in at 8 percent compared with the 2019 level, and the two-year average growth stood at 3.9 percent.

Investment by the private sectors rose 7 percent year-on-year to nearly 30.77 trillion yuan last year, the NBS data showed.

On a month-on-month basis, the fixed-asset investment gained 0.22 percent in December last year.

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Last year, investment in the primary, secondary and tertiary industries increased 9.1 percent, 11.3 percent and 2.1 percent, respectively, from the 2020 level

Investment in manufacturing gained 13.5 percent year-on-year, NBS data showed.

The fixed-asset investment includes capital spent on infrastructure, property, machinery and other physical assets.