It’s a strange sentence to read, but something positive seems to be happening Italy’s economy right now.
On Friday, the Italian statistical agency released its latest consumer confidence figures for the month of November, and they’re the best on record, going back 20 years.
There’s been a pretty rapid acceleration in confidence, up from lows of below 85 in 2013 to over 118 now (where 100 is equal to the 2010 level).
Even in the very early days of the eurozone, when moderate growth and stable inflation seemed pretty much guaranteed, people weren’t as confident as they are now.
Here’s how it looks:
It’s not the only piece of good news that Italy has had recently. Growth in the third quarter marked 0.2%. Though that’s not particularly impressive, it was still the country’s third consecutive quarter of growth (something last achieved 4 years ago).
Unemployment seems to have come off its peak, falling to 11.8% in October, from a high of 13% last year, and business surveys suggest there’s more hiring to come.
Obviously everything isn’t going amazingly (or even that well), but by Italian standards it’s a significant improvement.
Though it wasn’t one of the countries most deeply affected by the sovereign debt crisis, in the long-term Italy could be an Achilles’ heel for the eurozone. It’s the bloc’s third-biggest economy, it has seen basically no GDP growth since the single currency was brought into existence.
Even states like Spain where output collapsed during the financial crisis (and then the euro crisis) are still considerably better off than Italy, in comparison to where they started at the turn of the millennium.
Sean Darby and Kenneth Chan, analysts at Jefferies, explained their view of Italy’s economic situation in a note during October:
While all the headlines in early summer focused on Grexit, Italy quietly continued to implement the Jobs Act after it was approved last December. The reform program is certainly not over with legislation in place to allow banking consolidation, a more efficient services sector and overhaul of the tax system. PM Matteo Renzi has kept his promise to undertake deep reforms to boost growth.
However, the economy still seems to be travelling in second gear with GDP growth forecast to be around 0.7% this year after three consecutive years of contraction. The unemployment rate is set to remain stubbornly high. The reforms are being implemented but the growth is too weak to turnaround the economy.
In short — there’s good news, but it’s not good enough.
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