Manufacturing activity in China, the world's No. 2 economy, fell in July to its lowest level in 11 months, according to a preliminary indicator that HSBC bank publishes just days before its final reading.
The flash HSBC/Markit Purchasing Managers' Index fell to 47.7 this month, down from 48.3 in June.
The PMI now has come in below the 50-point threshold for three consecutive months, providing further evidence that the Asian giant's economy is losing steam.
The data "suggests a continuous slowdown in manufacturing sectors thanks to weaker new orders and faster destocking," Qu Hongbin, HSBC's chief China economist, said.
This "adds more pressure on the labor market" and "reinforces the need to introduce additional fine-tuning measures to stabilize growth," he added.
The data was released a day after Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke publicly for the first time about the need for the country to deepen its reforms and its opening-up efforts as it strives to overcome its economic challenges.
China intends to shift its economic model to one less dependent on exports and government investment and more reliant on domestic consumption.
China's gross domestic product grew at a 7.5-percent clip in the second quarter, its slowest expansion in recent years. That figure was in line with the country's minimum growth target for 2013.
Despite the slowdown, the new Chinese leaders who took office in March have ruled out the possibility of stimulus measures, saying they are willing to tolerate lower short-term GDP growth as part of a strategy of ensuring sustained growth over the long haul. EFE