German economy sees weakest growth since 2013


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Germany is leading manufacturer of cars

The German economy grew by 0.6% last year, according to official figures, its weakest performance since 2013.

The German statistics office said growth was driven mainly by household spending.

Business investment in machinery and equipment was weaker, however. Exports did grow but more slowly than in previous years.

Industrial production, excluding construction, fell by 0.5%.

The statistics office has not yet published full data for the final quarter of last year, but has enough information to assess the impact on the year as a whole.

Claus Vistesen, of Pantheon Macroeconomics, says growth in the final three months of last year was likely to have been about 0.1% to 0.2%.

That follows very weak growth in the third quarter and a small decline in economic activity in the three months period before that.

Those previous quarterly figures showed Germany avoided a recession last year in the sense of two consecutive quarters of contraction.

But they, and the new figures for the full year, show Europe’s largest economy struggling to generate growth.

Car output

Germany is a big exporter (the third largest after two much larger economies, the US and China). There has been a persistent concern that the rising tensions in international trade since President Donald Trump took office would hit Germany particularly hard.

There is some evidence of that in the new figures. Exports did grow, although at 0.9% it was a relatively weak contribution to the economic expansion.

Services and especially construction experienced growth last year, but industry contracted. The statistics office said “especially low output in the automotive industry contributed to the decrease”.

Economic activity per person barely grew at all – just 0.1%. Output per employed person actually fell by 0.3%. Employment has continued to expand in German despite the weak growth although the rate of new job creation has slowed.

Unemployment in Germany at 3.1% is among the lowest in the world.