Recovery continued over the summer and into early fall without accelerating. Exports remain the driving force for increased capacity utilization and a brightening investment climate. Continued lively domestic demand gives the upturn a broader base but, together with disappointing net receipts from summer tourism, acts as a drag on the current external account. Having passed its trough about a year ago, business activity in Austria is still in the early stage of a moderate upturn. Its further course will be largely determined by developments abroad as foreign demand is typically the growth engine at this stage of the cycle. Exports have recently been strong towards some eastern neighbor countries, the former Soviet Union, and overseas markets. The Austrian supply structure with its relatively large share of semi-manufactures and highly competitive machine tools and other investment goods sector was conducive to a reinforcement of market shares. On the traditional markets in Western Europe performance was mixed. Past exchange rate shifts and sluggish domestic demand in Germany exerted a dampening effect. Moreover, the sweeping rationalization and cost-cutting measures in the German automobile industry may, on the whole, not have benefited Austrian suppliers. The order situation suggests further export and output growth for the months ahead. In many European countries demand buoyancy has extended from exports to private investment. Wage moderation and rising capacity utilization have boosted corporate profitability, such that comparatively high real interest rates should not impede the recovery, at least not in the short run. Domestic demand continues to rise although activity in the construction sector has slackened since last spring. Income gains from tax cuts have to a large extent been either saved or spent on services, particularly foreign travel. Retail sales of consumer durables have so far remained subdued as households expect price cuts after accession to the EU. The labor market has reacted relatively quickly to the rebound in output. The construction sector, retail trade, and many other services are hiring new labor and, even in manufacturing, personnel cuts have come to a halt. In November, registered unemployment fell by 14,400 year-on-year. Price stabilization has made slow progress in recent months. In October, the annual inflation rate fell below 3 percent. Housing costs and service prices have posted above-average increases throughout the recession; but also for manufactures, inflation is relatively strong given the altogether stable import and producer prices.
Konjunkturbelebung entlastet den Arbeitsmarkt; Cyclical Recovery Improves Labor Market Situation
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