The combined output of India’s eight core infrastructure sectors rose by 16.8% in May 2021, compared to the same month last year, showed government data released on Wednesday.

The year-on-year increase in output was led by a low-base effect from May 2020 as well as positive growth in six sectors. In May 2020, India’s core sector output had shrunk 21.4% because of the lockdown imposed to contain the spread of Covid-19.

The production of natural gas rose 20.1% in May 2021, compared to the same month last year. Petroleum refinery products saw a year-on-year-increase of 15.3%, while steel output grew 59.3%.

Output in the cement and electricity sectors grew 7.9% and 7.3% year-on-year, respectively. Coal output rose 6.9%.

The output in fertilizers and crude oil sectors declined year-on-year in May. Fertilizer production contracted 9.6%, while crude oil output reduced by 6.3%.

Aditi Nayar, the chief economist of commercial banking company ICRA, told The Hindu that India’s core sector output in May 2021 was 8% lower than the pre-Covid-19 level in May 2019.

“Even though construction activities were allowed amidst the states’ restrictions, the cement sector saw the largest sequential moderation in May 2021 as well as the deepest pace of contraction relative to May 2019 (15.2%),” she told the newspaper. “This may reflect the impact of the second wave on rural demand, as well as the year-on-year decline in the Government of India’s capital outlay in May 2021.”

In April 2021, growth in India’s eight core sectors rose by a sharp 56.1% year-on-year, the Financial Express had reported.