The purchasing managers' index (PMI) for China's manufacturing sector came in at 49.5 this month, slightly up from 49.4 in December, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said Thursday.
A reading above 50 indicates expansion, while a reading below reflects contraction.
The slight increase ended month-on-month declines reported in the previous four months in a row, NBS senior statistician Zhao Qinghe said in a statement.
The sub-indices for production and raw material inventories both edged up from December, while those for new orders, employment, and supplier delivery time dropped to different extents.
Large companies saw the manufacturing PMI up 1.2 points to 51.3, whereas the readings for medium-sized and small companies dropped 1.2 and 1.3 points, respectively.
Zhang Liqun, researcher with the Development Research Center of the State Council, said the new data pointed to signs of the country's economic stabilization, but the foundation still needs to be consolidated.
This month, the non-manufacturing PMI rose 0.9 points from December to 54.7, and the composite PMI output index rose 0.6 points to 53.2, the NBS data showed.
China's GDP growth was 6.6 percent in 2018, above the government's annual target of around 6.5 percent, but slightly down from the revised growth of 6.8 percent for 2017.