Euro zone GDP grew 1.2% last year, according to the review published this morning by the Community statistics office, Eurostat. The expansion of the European Union, the club of the 27 countries, was 1.4% in 2019.
In the evolution of GDP growth figures in Europe, what was observed over the past year was a progressive slowdown. If we take the quarterly expansion data in year-on-year comparison, although the year started in the euro zone with GDP growth of 1.4%, in the last quarter the pace was limited to 0.9%. In the second and third quarters of the year the economy of the euro zone grew at 1.2% year-on-year rates.
If we compare quarter to quarter, this trend to growth moderation is also observed. Thus, in the first quarter of 2019, the euro zone expanded at a rate of 0.4%, compared to 0.1% in which the economy advanced in the fourth quarter compared to the third.
That 0.1% expansion in the fourth quarter was shared in the European Union and in the euro zone. And in both cases it represents a significant deceleration from the 0.3% that grew in the previous quarter, the third.
By countries, in this fourth quarter of the year, Spain once again stood out among the most dynamic, with a rise in its GDP of 0.5% compared to the third quarter, which represents an annualized growth (resulting from multiplying the figure for the last quarter by four) of 2%, coinciding with the latest INE estimate for growth at the end of 2019.
But Portugal showed greater dynamism, with a quarterly growth of 0.6% in the final stretch of the year.
The Spanish (and Portuguese) figure contrasts with that of Germany, whose GDP stagnated in the fourth quarter, while the French contracted 0.1% and the Italian suffered a fall of three tenths in the last three months of the year compared to the period between July and September.
Germany, which is considered a European locomotive, was able to avoid the technical recession (defined by the chain of two consecutive quarters of GDP contraction) in the third quarter of the year. Its GDP had registered a 0.2% drop between April and June, but between July and September it grew 0.2%. But 2019 ended with the economy suffering a break.
In terms of employment, according to the Eurostat estimate, in the euro zone it grew 1.1% in the euro zone and 1% in the European Union last year. But in this rubric, unlike in GDP growth, an acceleration was observed in the latter part of the year. In the euro zone, the number of employees grew by 0.3% in the fourth quarter, compared to the 0.1% increase registered between July and September.