Finance and real estate helped economy grow 0.8% in 2018

The economy in 2018 displayed a muted growth, thanks to the real estate and finance sectors.
The economy in 2018 displayed a muted growth, thanks to the real estate and finance sectors.
Image: 123RF/ olegdudko

South Africa's economy grew by 1.4% in the fourth quarter of 2018‚ contributing to an overall growth rate of 0.8% for the entire year.

The latest set of gross domestic product (GDP) figures was released by Stats SA on Wednesday. The figures provide an overview of economic performance in 2018. SA found itself in economic recession during the year‚ its second since the early 1990s.

Stats SA said the 2018 recession spanned the first two quarters of the year‚ with the economy shrinking by 2.7% in the first quarter and contracting further by 0.5% in the second. A recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of slowing growth.

Stats SA said that despite the recession‚ positive growth in the third (2.6%) and the fourth (1.4%) quarters was just enough to push overall growth for the year into positive territory‚ with the real annual growth rate coming in at 0.8%.

This is down from 1.4% in 2017 but up from 0.4% in 2016.

The finance‚ real estate and business services industry was a strong supporter of overall growth in 2018‚ increasing by 1.8% during the year.

The second-largest contributor to growth was government‚ which expanded by 1.3%. These two sectors contributed 0.4 and 0.2 of a percentage point to the overall growth.

Agriculture‚ mining and construction all stumbled‚ however. Agriculture in particular had a difficult year‚ contracting 4.8%. A slowdown in the production of field crops and horticultural products stunted growth in the first two quarters.

Mining activity fell by 1.7%.

Gold‚ copper and iron ore were the biggest drags on production in 2018‚ according to Stats SA's mining production and sales release.

Gold production fell by 14.5% in 2018‚ the biggest annual slump since 2008.

Copper production tumbled by 28.5% in the same year‚ the biggest fall on record since 1981‚ the year Stats SA started publishing the current series of monthly mining data.

The construction industry had its worst year in two decades in 2018‚ according to the GDP figures.

Production slumped by 1.2%‚ the industry's biggest annual fall since 1999‚ when activity fell by 1.4%.

The industry has struggled to keep its head above water‚ experiencing its second consecutive year of economic decline in 2018.

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