The Israeli economy roared ahead in the fourth quarter of 2019, growing 4.9%. That was over 25% better than the 3.8% growth rate in the fourth quarter of 2018. The numbers were presented by the Central Bureau of Statistics.
Consumer demand was a major factor in the growth rate. Demand rose 10% over the same quarter a year earlier, with a 7.8% increase in personal spending. Personal spending fell 0.7% in the third quarter of 2019, and 2.1% in the second quarter.
The biggest factor in the increased consumer spending was in the automotive sector, with purchases of cars increasing 486.4% over the fourth quarter figures of 2018. That came after an increase of 175.1% percent in the third quarter. Many of the purchases were timed to beat the imposition of a “green tax” on vehicles, which increased taxes on hybrid vehicles, the CBS said.
Formerly, it was reported by the CBS that Israeli exports grew 5% in 2019 over the previous year. Exports for the year totaled $114 billion, the numbers said. Looking forward to 2020, the CBS said it expects exports to rise to over $120 billion. The average increase in exports for Western countries was about 1.1%, according to the International Monetary Fund.
Largely responsible for the increase was a sharp rise – over 11% – in exports of services, many of them connected to high tech. Service exports between 2013 and 2019 rose 60%, with high-tech services again the main engine of growth; exports in that sector grew from $16.5 billion in 2013 to over $33 billion in 2019, an increase of some 100%.
Exports of products other than diamonds rose a modest 3% in 2019 over their 2018 levels. Diamonds themselves suffered a sharp drop in exports, falling 28% from 2018 to 2019. Agricultural exports also fell, by 1.5%.