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2009 - A Summary of the Economy in the EU

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It has become known as the “Great Recession”, the year in which the global economy suffered its deepest slump since the second world war. But an equally apt name would be the “Great Stabilisation”. For 2009 was extraordinary not just for how output fell, but for how a catastrophe was averted.

Twelve months ago, the panic sown by the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers had pushed financial markets close to collapse. Global economic activity, from industrial production to foreign trade, was falling faster than in the early 1930s. This time, though, the decline was stemmed within months. Big emerging economies accelerated first and fastest. China’s output, which stalled but never fell, was growing by an annualised rate of some 17% in the second quarter. By mid-year the world’s big, rich economies (with the exception of Britain and Spain) had started to expand again. Only a few laggards, such as Latvia and Ireland, are now likely still to be in recession. The real GDP growth rate in the EU will land on the negative side of the scale this year, -4.1% according to Eurstat forecasts, but they promise there will be real growth in 2010.

There has been a lot of collateral damage. Average unemployment across the OECD is almost 9%. In the Euro Area it is 9.8%. In America, where the recession began much earlier, the jobless rate has doubled to 10%. In some places years of progress in poverty reduction have been undone as the poorest have been hit by the double whammy of weak economies and still-high food prices. But thanks to the resilience of big, populous economies such as China, India and Indonesia, the emerging world overall fared no worse in this downturn than in the 1991 recession. For many people on the planet, the Great Recession was not all that great.

That outcome was not inevitable. It was the result of the biggest, broadest and fastest government response in history. Teetering banks were wrapped in a multi-trillion-dollar cocoon of public cash and guarantees. Central banks slashed interest rates; the big ones dramatically expanded their balance-sheets. Governments worldwide embraced fiscal stimulus with gusto. This extraordinary activism helped to stem panic, prop up the financial system and counter the collapse in private demand. Despite claims to the contrary, the Great Recession could have been a Depression without it.

Sources: Economist and Eurostat (one must ask, why cannot Eurostat get it and call the website eurostat.eu instead of all these portal slash page slash portal etc, it's name is longer than OJ's site!)

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