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Swiss economy briefly approaches pre-Covid level of activity

The reopening of shops in March helped boost consumer activity. Keystone / Laurent Gillieron

In March, the economy temporarily reached the pre-crisis levels of the fourth quarter of 2019 before shrinking again.  

This content was published on April 13, 2021 - 14:32
Keystone-SDA/ac

On Tuesday, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco) shared the results of its weekly economic activity index (WEA), which measures economic activity compared to the same week in the previous year. 

Taking the fourth quarter of 2019 as the benchmark, the economists said that in early March the economy recovered substantially and temporarily surpassed pre-Covid crisis levels.  

“This should partly be due to catch-up effects in private consumption. In the wake of the re-opening of retail stores, it was possible to make deferred expenditures in certain consumption sectors,” said Seco.  

Some of the recovery was also attributed to the return of manufacturing but this has again weakened recently. In the last two weeks the WEA fell notably below the pre-crisis benchmark again.  

Lifting restrictions

In mid-March, the Swiss government cancelled plans to ease coronavirus restrictions, as had been widely hoped. It cited an increasing number of coronavirus cases and insufficient progress on vaccinations. Most affected by the postponement were restaurants and bars that were expecting approval to reopen their outdoor dining areas on March 22. The government is meeting again on Wednesday this week to review the situation. 

Around CHF1.6 billion ($1.73 billion) in aid has been paid out for hardship cases in Switzerland up to the beginning of April. Seco announced on Tuesday via Twitter that this aid has benefited almost 20,000 companies. Almost half (47.3%) of the companies that received this aid are in the restaurant sector.

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