Although many of the established economies failed to fully realise their potential in 2013, there were growing signs of a slight improvement in the economy as a whole. Following two difficult years dominated by the crisis, the euro zone emerged from recession during the past year. However, despite a marginal upturn in gross domestic product (GDP) in three successive quarters, the euro zone was unable to record GDP growth for 2013 as a whole (minus 0.4 per cent). Alongside Germany, which remains the European growth driver, the Austrian economy closed the year with moderate GDP growth of 0.4 per cent.
Although the upturn in the USA is fundamentally stronger, it was curbed by the dramatic budget consolidation last year, with the result that GDP growth was down slightly on 2012 at 1.9 per cent. A reduction in the budget deficit meant that public finances were largely brought under control. Congress also presented a budget plan for 2014 and 2015 that reduced tax-related uncertainty among US households and companies, as well as international investors.
The high unemployment rate in Europe reflects the low utilisation of economic capacity. Signs of a certain stabilisation on the employment markets only began to emerge in the second half of 2013. In the euro zone, the unemployment rate in December stagnated at 12 per cent. The differences between the individual member states remained pronounced. While Greece and Spain saw the highest unemployment rates in the euro zone – 26.4 per cent and 26.6 per cent respectively – the situation on the Austrian employment market eased somewhat, with an unemployment rate of 4.9 per cent.