SEOUL, May 11 (Yonhap) — Combined service output rose in eight provinces and major cities in South Korea in the first quarter, led by production gains in Seoul, as the economy is on a recovery track, data showed Tuesday.

Seoul, three other cities and four provinces posted an on-year increase in service output in the January-March period, according to the data from Statistics Korea.

Among them, service output in Seoul — home to about one-fifth of the country’s 52 million population — rose at the fastest rate of 6.3 percent on-year in the first quarter, backed by robust gains in the financial, telecommunication and wholesale sectors.

Six provinces and cities saw service output decline, while service production in two regions remained unchanged.

This file photo, taken April 5, 2021, shows people visiting Lotte Department Store in central Seoul during its spring sale event. (Yonhap)

The service sector was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, but deep slumps in the in-person service segments, including accommodations and retailers, eased as people’s activities increased amid warmer weather.

In the first quarter, the country’s service output grew 2.2 percent on-year, according to the statistics agency.

Retail sales, a gauge of private spending, rose in 14 provinces and cities in the first quarter amid eased social distancing rules over the pandemic, the data showed.

The southeastern city of Daegu saw retail sales rise 9.5 percent on-year, and retail sales in the central city of Daejeon increased 8.3 percent.

South Korea’s southern resort island of Jeju suffered the biggest fall in retail sales with an 8.1 percent on-year decline amid sluggish demand for products at duty-free shops.