The Spring 2021 Economic Forecast projects that the EU economy will expand by 4.2% in 2021 and by 4.4% in 2022. The euro area economy is forecast to grow by 4.3% this year and 4.4% next year. This represents a significant upgrade of the growth outlook compared to the Winter 2021 Economic Forecast which the Commission presented in February. Growth rates will continue to vary across the EU, but all Member States should see their economies return to pre-crisis levels by the end of 2022.
Valdis Dombrovskis, Executive Vice-President for an Economy that Works for People said: “While we are not yet out of the woods, Europe's economic prospects are looking a lot brighter. As vaccination rates rise, restrictions ease and people's lives slowly return to normal, we have upgraded forecasts for the EU and euro area economies for this year and next. The Recovery and Resilience Facility will help the recovery and will be a real game changer in 2022, when it will ramp up public investments to the highest level in over a decade. Much hard work still lies ahead, and many risks will hang over us as long as the pandemic does. Until we reach solid ground, we will continue to do all it takes to protect people and keep businesses afloat.”
Economic growth resumes as vaccination rates increase and containment measures ease
The coronavirus pandemic represents a shock of historic proportions for Europe's economies. The EU economy contracted by 6.1% and the euro area economy by 6.6% in 2020. Although in general, businesses and consumers have adapted to cope better with containment measures, some sectors - such as tourism and in-person services - continue to suffer.
The rebound in Europe's economy that began last summer stalled in the fourth quarter of 2020 and in the first quarter of 2021, as fresh public health measures were introduced to contain the rise in the number of COVID-19 cases. However, the EU and euro area economies are expected to rebound strongly as vaccination rates increase and restrictions are eased. This growth will be driven by private consumption, investment, and a rising demand for EU exports from a strengthening global economy.
Public investment, as a proportion of GDP, is set to reach its highest level in more than a decade in 2022. This will be driven by the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), the key instrument at the heart of NextGenerationEU.
Labour markets improve slowly
Labour market conditions are slowly improving after the initial impact of the pandemic. Employment rose in the second half of 2020 and unemployment rates have decreased from their peaks in most Member States.
Public support schemes, including those supported by the EU through the SURE instrument, have prevented unemployment rates from rising dramatically. However, labour markets will need time to fully recover as there is scope for working hours to increase before companies need to hire more workers.
The unemployment rate in the EU is forecast at 7.6% in 2021 and 7% in 2022. In the euro area, the unemployment rate is forecast at 8.4% in 2021 and 7.8% in 2022. These rates remain higher than pre-crisis levels.
The health of the EU economies continues to depend on infection rates, the pressures experienced by health care systems, and the duration and severity of containment measures. The new round of restrictions prompted by the wave of infections that took off in late 2020 pushed the EU back into recession, even though the decline in activity was far milder than the downturn during the first wave. ECOPNET (European Cooperation and Partnership Network) closely follows the latest Commission survey results as well as the institutional papers and inform its partners on the outlook of the EU economy and further policies that might be decided to ensure economic recovery.
Source: European Commission Press Corner