In the fourth quarter of the year, from October to December, the Austrian economy shrunk by – 4.3 percent compared to the previous quarter, the figures show.
That figure represented a bigger drop in GDP than any other EU economy for which data was available (see table below), according to the statistical office of the European Union (Eurostat).
However it was preceded by a 12 percent growth in the third quarter of the year, when the country was fairly open and the second wave of Covid was yet to hit.
The slump in last quarter obviously coincided with the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, which hit Europe hard and forced countries including to Austria, to re-introduce strict lockdowns and widespread closures.
Eurostat's “flash estimates” showed of all the member states for which data was available for the fourth quarter of 2020, Austria's GDP recorded the largest decrease (-4.3%) compared to the previous quarter.
It was followed by Italy, whose economy shrunk by 2 percent and France, which contracted by 1.3 percent.
When compared year on year with other European countries, Austria’s economy also showed a big slowdown.
A comparison with the previous year shows a fall in GDP of 7.8 percent. Only Spain, which had a fall of 9.1 percent GDP, was harder hit by the pandemic than Austria.
For the EU as a whole combined GDP fell by 0.5 percent between the third and fourth quarters and by 4.8 percent compared to the previous year.
Reacting to the figures Der Standard newspaper commented Austria was doing “particularly badly” economically during the pandemic and said the depth of the recession was “surprising”, while broadcaster ORF pointed out that GDP in the Eurozone shrank by the largest amount since records began in 1996.
However, Austrian Institute for Economic Research (WIFO) boss Christoph Badelt told the ZIB2 programme that the numbers were estimates and should be treated with caution.
Badelt said the plummeting GDP between the third and fourth quarter of 2020 could be explained by Austria’s summer tourism success. From this higher level of economic activity in the summer, the slump would be stronger.
And he said he was certain once Covid-19 is contained, there will be a “massive upswing”.