The upward trend in seasonally adjusted GDP development was broken in the fourth quarter. Following a period of resistance to the effects of the euro crisis, Swedish exports weakened during the last quarter of last year. Exports were weaker than both world trade and imports of the Euro area. Imports also weakened, but not at all to the same degree as exports. However, the weak final quarter should be seen from the perspective of strong development earlier during the year.Swedish exports increased by 6.8 percent during the entire year, compared to the year before, thus surpassing world trade. Certain bright spots are also visible in early indicators, for example, strong January exports and a positive outlook in the Export Managers Index.
At the same time consumption expenses of households recovered somewhat and seasonally adjusted household consumption increased by 0.4 percent during the fourth quarter after a decrease in the third quarter. Even though the increase in household consumption was fairly weak, the increase was broad and most of the sub-items rose. The increase was mainly held back by the expenditure item for housing, but other items such as trade in motor vehicles and holiday trips abroad also weakened. Households reacted somewhat more cautiously during autumn, and consumption trends for all of 2011 were relatively weak. Despite good income development, households gave priority to increased savings.
Gross fixed capital formation contributed with 0.4 percentage points to GDP growth in the fourth quarter, compared to the corresponding quarter of the year before and resulted in the next largest contribution of GDP growth after investments in inventory, which contributed with 0.5 percentage points. Investments thus replaced exports as the largest driving force in the economy. Investments show a mixed picture - compared to the previous quarter, investments turned upwards again after having fallen for the first time in roughly one year in the third quarter. Compared to the corresponding quarter of the previous year, we see large differences in the development of investments among the different parts of the economy.While new construction of single family dwellings fell sharply, business investments (excluding dwellings) grew more rapidly during the fourth quarter.
The Swedish business sector ended 2011 on a low note. After ten quarters in a row of positive development for business sector production, a hasty turn took place during the fourth quarter. Production in the business sector decreased compared to the third quarter.Weak development for goods production was the main reason for the downturn.The decrease in production within the manufacturing industry was largely due to a reduced demand for exports.The service sector also slowed down and was basically unchanged from the quarter before. Employment in the business sector increased weakly.
The changes on the labour market on the whole were relatively small during the fourth quarter. Seasonally adjusted, employment continued to increase for women, while it decreased for men; in total, employment was unchanged. At the same time unemployment increased weakly.The relative unemployment for all of 2011 averaged 7.5 percent.This is a decrease of SEK 0.9 percentage points compared to the year before.
This issue of Sweden's economy – a statistical perspective also contains two theme articles.The first article explains the differences between the Industrial Production Index (IPI) and industrial production in the National Accounts.Briefly, these differences are partly due to different definitions, partly to limitations in the kind of information that can be collected for the IPI, and finally, the corrections and reconciliations that are necessary for the National Accounts system to make ends meet. The second article broadly studies the differences between the balance of payments and the National Accounts. Even though the two presentations are based on a harmonised international nomenclature and a coordinated basis of data, the information differs between them in certain parts. Among other things, this is due to differences in definitions, sources and publishing times.