SEOUL, March 31 (Yonhap) — South Korea’s industrial output grew at the fastest pace in eight months in February, data showed Wednesday, in the latest sign that the economy is on a recovery track supported by exports amid the pandemic.

The industrial output increased 2.1 percent in February from the previous month, sharply turning around from a 0.6 percent on-month decline in January, according to the data compiled by Statistics Korea.

From a year earlier, it rose 0.4 percent.

It marked the fastest on-month gain since June 2020, when industrial production grew 3.9 percent.

This file photo, taken March 2, 2021, shows ships carrying containers docking at a port in South Korea’s southeastern port city of Busan. (Yonhap)

Production in the mining, manufacturing, gas and electricity industries grew 4.3 percent on-month in February, the fastest gain since June 2020, on the back of brisk chip output.

Service output gained 1.1 percent on-month, the first increase in three months, as the accommodation and food sectors improved amid eased virus curbs.

On Feb. 15, the country lowered its tougher social distancing measures by one notch to Level 2, the third highest in its five-tier scheme, in the greater Seoul area and to Level 1.5 in other regions.

The in-person service sector bore the brunt of the pandemic as people refrained from visiting shops on concerns about virus infection risks.

Private spending and investment declined on-month in February due largely to the base effect, according to the statistics agency.

Retail sales shed 0.8 percent from a month earlier, compared with a 1.6 percent gain in the previous month, due to a fall in demand for food and telecommunication goods. It marked the first on-month decline in three months.

Facility investment declined 2.5 percent last month, compared with a 6.5 percent gain the previous month.

Despite the extended virus fallout, the South Korean economy is on a recovery track on robust exports.

Asia’s fourth-largest economy contracted 1 percent last year, the first retreat since the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis. But its contraction was far smaller than other major advanced economies.

The Bank of Korea (BOK) forecast the Korean economy to grow 3 percent this year on the back of solid exports.

This file photo, taken March 3, 2021, shows a sign announcing a temporary closure due to the pandemic that was put up at a shop in Seoul’s shopping district of Myeongdong. (Yonhap)