In March, Euro Area (EA) economic sentiment indicator increased significantly, standing for the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, at a level above that observed in March 2020. This evolution resulted from increased confidence levels in all sectors surveyed (industry, services, retail trade and construction), as well as the recovery of the consumer confidence indicator. The prices of raw materials and oil presented rates of -2.4% and +6.8%, compared with the previous month, respectively (+5.4% and +14.4% in February).
In Portugal, not considering three-months moving average (see next section), the information available for March, reveals positive year-on-year rates of change, after negative rates since the beginning of the pandemic. This evolution is largely due to a base effect, since, for the first time, after a year, the comparison focuses on a month already strongly affected by the pandemic (March 2020). The overall amount of national withdrawals, payment of services and purchases at automatic payment terminals carried out on the automatic teller machines of the Multibanco network grew by 6.2% in year-on-year terms (-17.0% in March 2020 and -25.7% in February 2021). Sales of passenger cars registered a year-on-year rate of change of 19.9% (-57.5% in March 2020 and -59.0% in February 2021), sales of light commercial vehicles increased 87.7% (-51.2% in March 2020 and -17.8% in February 2021) and sales of heavy-duty vehicles grew by 93.9% (-46.9% in March 2020 and +19.2% in February 2021).
In a context of improvements in the COVID-19 pandemic effects on public health, the Consumer confidence indicator increased significantly in March, after diminishing in the previous month, attaining the highest level since April 2020. The economic climate indicator increased in March, contrary to the reduction observed in the previous month. In March, confidence indicators increased in Manufacturing Industry, in Trade and in Services, while the Construction and Public Works indicator stabilized.
In February, the provisional monthly Labour Force Survey estimates for unemployment rate (16 to 74 years old) and underutilization of labour rate, seasonally adjusted, were 6.9% and 13.9% (6.9% and 13.8% in January, and 6.5% and 12.7% in February 2020), respectively. Employment increased by 0.2% compared to the previous month and decreased by 1.7% in year-on-year terms. In February, the employment indexes of the turnover surveys presented year on-year rates of change of -2.5% in industry, -5.4% in retail trade, -9.5% in services and -0.7% in construction (-2.7%, -4.8%, -8.5% and 0.0% in January, in the same order). The hours worked indexes, adjusted for calendar effects, registered rates of -11.2% in industry, -21.1% in retail trade and -25.0% in services (-7.1%, -13.8% and -16.5% in the previous month, in the same order).
The Consumer Price Index (CPI) year-on-year rate of change remained at 0.5% in March, with the goods component registering a year-on-year rate of change of 0.4% (0.5% in February), while the services component grew by 0.5% (0.6% in the previous month).
Despite the circumstances determined by the pandemic COVID-19, Statistics Portugal calls for the best collaboration by companies, families and public entities in responding to Statistics Portugal’s data requests. The quality of official statistics, particularly its ability to identify the impacts of the pandemic COVID-19, crucially depends on this collaboration, which Statistics Portugal thanks in advance.