SEOUL, March 9 (Yonhap) — South Korea’s economic activity remains stagnant as the country has continued to suffer heavy job losses despite improving consumption and robust exports, a state-run think tank said Tuesday.

Revived consumption of durable goods and solid exports have provided some defense against the economic slowdown, according to a monthly economic assessment report by the Korea Development Institute (KDI).

“The Korean economy continues to be sluggish with rapidly contracting employment due to COVID-19, although both internal and external demand for commodities is rising,” the report showed.

Exports, which account for half of the economy, smoothly set sail, with overseas shipments growing 9.5 percent on-year in February on robust delivery of chips and autos.

Retail sales rose for the second straight month in January despite tougher virus curbs over a resurgence in COVID-19 cases.

But the country’s industrial output declined for the first time in eight months in January in the latest sign that economic recovery momentum still remains weak amid the pandemic.

The nation reported the largest job loss in January since 1998 as a flare-up in new coronavirus cases and extended tougher virus curbs dealt a heavy blow to jobs in the service sector.

“The labor market is weakening rapidly led by the high-contact service industry as COVID-19 continues to spread, implying that the overall economy remains stagnant,” the report said.

This photo, taken Jan. 31, 2021, shows only a few people at Seoul’s shopping district of Myeongdong amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Yonhap)