In the Euro Area (EA), GDP in real terms registered a year-on-year rate of change of -3.2% in the first quarter of 2020 (growth of 1.0% in the previous quarter), presenting the most intense decrease observed since the third quarter of 2009. In Portugal, GDP registered a year-on-year decrease of 2.4% in volume in the first quarter of 2020, after a growth of 2.2% in the fourth quarter of 2019. The contribution of external demand to the year-on-year rate of change of GDP was negative in the first quarter (-1.4 percentage points), after being positive in the previous quarter, as a result of the more intense decrease in Exports of Goods and Services than in Imports of Goods and services. Domestic demand registered a negative contribution (-1.0 percentage points), for the first time since the third quarter of 2013, with a decrease in Private Consumption and in Investment.
Not considering three-months moving averages (see next section), the information already available for April reveals a strong contraction in economic activity, worsening significantly compared to March. The Consumer confidence indicator reached the minimum value since May 2013 and the economic climate indicator showed the sharpest reduction in the series, attaining the minimum value. All sector confidence indicators declined sharply compared to March, especially in the case of Services, with emphasis on the sections “Artistic, entertainment, sports and recreational activities” and “Accommodation, restaurants and similar”. The quantitative information reveals that the overall amount of national withdrawals, payment of services and purchases at automatic payment terminals carried out on the automatic teller machines of the Multibanco network showed the most intense decrease in the series in April (-38.6%), after decreasing by 17.0% in the previous month. The information regarding vehicle sales decreased sharply in April, with rates of change of -87.0%, -69.9% and -72.7% for passenger cars, light commercial vehicles and heavy duty vehicles, respectively.
According to the Fast and Exceptional Enterprise Survey (COVID-IREE), carried out together by Statistics Portugal and Banco de Portugal, the results obtained from the valid responses obtained until the end of May 15th, indicated that the proportion of companies operating in the first half of May increased to 90%, compared to 84% in the previous fortnight, with emphasis on the Trade sector, with the percentage increasing from 84% to 92%. Considering the situation that would be expected without the pandemic, 77% of firms continued to report a negative impact on turnover.
In the first quarter of 2020, the unemployment rate was 6.7%, identical to the previous quarter and 0.1 percentage points. below the rate registered in the same period of 2019. The labour underutilisation rate was 12.9% and has increased by 0.4 percentage points from the previous quarter, while having decreased by 0.7 percentage points when compared to the value of a year earlier. Total employment decreased 0.3% in year-on-year terms (rate of change of 0.5% in the fourth quarter) and 0.9% compared to the previous quarter. The number of hours effectively worked in the first quarter of 2020 decreased 5.2% compared to the previous quarter and 5.3% in year-on-year terms.
The Consumer Price Index (CPI) presented a year-on-year rate of change of -0.2% in April (null in March), with a -1.2% rate of change in the goods component (-0.5% in the previous month) and 1.2% in the services component (0.9% in the previous month).
Despite the circumstances determined by the pandemic COVID 19, Statistics Portugal will try to maintain the statistical production and release calendar, although some adjustments might occur associated with the impact of the pandemic in obtaining primary information. For this reason, Statistics Portugal asks for the best collaboration by firms, households and public entities in answering to Statistics Portugal‘s requests to obtain information, using Internet and telephone as alternative channels to face-to-face contacts. In fact, the quality of official statistics, particularly its ability to identify the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, depends crucially on this collaboration that Statistics Portugal is grateful for in advance.