German economic output rose 1.5% during the second quarter of 2021, the Federal Statistical Office reported on Friday.
Destatis, the German name for the statistics office, attributed the quarter-on-quarter rise in gross domestic product (GDP) to higher household and government spending after many coronavirus restrictions were lifted.
The GDP for the three-month period was up 9.6% compared to the same period in 2020 when Germany went into a hard lockdown, plunging Europe’s largest economy into its deepest recession since the 2009 financial crisis.
Some analysts see Germany’s economy continuing to rebound strongly this year. Economic forecasting institutes are predicting GDP growth of between 3.2% and 3.9%.
Despite the upturn, there are a number of concerns about the health of the country’s economic growth.
After a month of life under lockdown, Germans are regaining a few freedoms. But they are doing so in patchwork fashion. The 16 individual states are responsible for lifting their lockdowns. The biggest change is that all shops under 800 square meters (8,610 square feet) are allowed to open their doors from April 20. But shoppers in some states — such as Berlin — will have to wait a little longer.
Germany’s most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), was one of the states to allow stores to open right away. Shoppers in Bonn appeared to take full advantage. NRW has also gone a baby-step further than other states, allowing large stores specializing in maternity products to open up.
Cyclists looking for a new purchase were already lining up outside a bike shop in Dinslaken, NRW, after it reopened on Monday. Bike stores, bookstores and car dealerships throughout Germany are allowed to welcome customers again, no matter the shops’ size.
Store owners were just as delighted to welcome back customers, with some launching spring sales to try and tempt a few more inside. A lifestyle store in Ludwigsburg, Saxony-Anhalt, put up a banner reading, “We are back! Nice to see you again.”
Pupils are slowly being allowed back in through school gates. The states of Berlin, Brandenburg and Saxony are permitting older students to return on Monday for classes to prepare them for their school-leaving exams, as well as the tests themselves. Most areas of Germany are targeting May 4 as the day to open schools more widely, but Bavaria, one of the hardest hit states, will wait until May 11.
Animals have had a month off as zoos and safari parks were closed by Germany’s lockdown. But some states are ready to allow visitors to return. Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Brandenburg and Rhineland-Palatinate are all permitting zoos to open to some extent. In these and other states people will be able to visit museums again.
Some people have been wearing masks out of choice, but in certain regions they will become a more common sight. There is no nationwide requirement to wear them, but some states are introducing one. From April people using busses and trains and going into shops in Saxony will need something to cover their noses and mouths. Bavaria and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania will follow with similar measures.
What won’t change are social distancing guidelines. No matter where they are, Germans are still being encouraged to keep 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) away from people they don’t live with. Stores that are reopening are marking this distance in various ways to help customers keep clear of one another.
While up from the first quarter of this year, the second quarter GDP figure fell short of the 2% gain economists had forecast for the period.
Additionally, the economy has not yet returned to its pre-pandemic size.
The statistics office said GDP was still 3.4% lower in the second quarter than it was in the final quarter of 2019 — the last one before the pandemic started.
Some economists pointed to global supply chain bottlenecks, hampering German production. This includes semiconductor shortages that have repeatedly hit the automotive sector.
There are also fears that the spread of highly contagious delta coronavirus variant could lead to future lockdowns.
While consumer spending had increased, German beer sales showed the lingering impact of coronavirus restrictions.
Sales in this year’s first half were 2.7% lower than a year earlier, according to data released by Destatis on Friday.
German-based breweries and distributors sold about 4.2 billion liters (1.1 billion gallons) of beer from January to June, the Federal Statistical Office said. That figure doesn’t include alcohol-free beer or beer imported from outside the European Union.
Some 3.3 billion liters of this was sold domestically, 4.9% less than a year ago.
By contrast, exports to the European Union were up by 3.5% and to other countries by 11.9%, but these were unable to make up the overall shortfall in beer sales.
“After seven months of lockdown, the reopening of the hospitality sector outdoors and indoors has started up only slowly. The stops and starts in the sector are severely impacting sales by breweries and by the bulk beer sector,” the brewers’ association said in Berlin.
Smaller breweries dependent on the hospitality and events sector were being particularly badly hit, it said.
kmm/sri (dpa, AP)