BERLIN – The German economy grew 0.3% in last year's fourth quarter compared with the previous three-month period, official data showed Wednesday — a better performance than first thought.
The Federal Statistical Office had reported in late January that gross domestic product edged up 0.1% in the October-December period.
Wednesday's revision meant that last year's overall drop in GDP was a touch less sharp than originally reported — 4.9% rather than 5%. That fall ended a decade of growth and was the biggest decline since the financial crisis in 2009.
Germany’s economy did better than several others in the 19-country eurozone as it was supported by manufacturing, which has taken less of a hit than services during the pandemic.
Still, the coronavirus pandemic has hit Germany's finances. After years in the black, the government resorted to running up new debt to help cover the cost of huge support packages for workers and an expected shortfall in tax revenue.
The statistics office said Germany had a budget deficit last year of 4.2% of GDP — higher than the 3% normally allowed under eurozone rules.
On Monday, elementary students in more than half of Germany's 16 states returned to school after more than two months at home, the first major relaxation of the country’s pandemic measures since they were tightened shortly before Christmas.
Hairdressers are due to reopen nationwide on March 1, but it's unclear when further steps to relax restrictions will be allowed. Industry has not been directly affected by the measures.
Germany has seen its infection rate decline significantly over the past two months, but the progress appears to have stalled in recent days amid concerns about the impact of more contagious virus variants. The country has seen over 68,000 confirmed virus deaths since the pandemic began.
“The construction sector, industrial activity and foreign demand helped to stop the German economy from falling into contraction during the second lockdown,” ING economist Carsten Brzeski said in a research note.
But he pointed to risks for the current quarter from a greater impact of the lockdown, a very cold spell this month and weaker foreign demand, including a possible reversal of “any pre-Brexit hoarding” in Britain.
“The growth drivers of the fourth quarter could easily become drags in the first,” he noted.