Pic: AP.

BEIJING (AP) — A survey shows Chinese manufacturing weakened in February and employers cut staff at their fastest rate in nearly five years.

HSBC Corp. said Monday its monthly purchasing managers index stood at 48.5 on a 100-point scale on which numbers below 50 show activity contracting. That was down from January’s 49.5.

The data add to signs China’s economy might be weakening as communist leaders try to reduce reliance on trade and investment and encourage self-sustaining growth based on domestic consumption.

“This calls for policy fine-tuning measures to stabilize market expectations and steady the pace of growth,” said HSBC economist Hongbin Qu in a statement.

Fewer new orders led manufacturers to cut staff for a fourth month in the fastest reduction since March 2009.