Brazil’s industrial output plunged by 4.5% last year as the coronavirus pandemic battered Latin America’s largest economy, particularly the auto and clothing industries, the national statistics institute reported on Tuesday.
Brazilian companies took a massive hit when much of the country went into partial lockdown in March and April, which caused industrial output to plummet by 27.1%. Despite eight months of gradual recovery since then, production did not fully rebound.
The auto industry, which ground to a near-total halt in March, ended the year with an output contraction of 28.1%, said national statistics institute IBGE. The clothing and metal industries shrank 23.7% and 7.2%, respectively.
The year ended with a better-than-expected monthly gain, however: industrial output increased by 0.9% in December, beating analysts’ forecast of 0.3%t.
Brazil has been hit hard by the pandemic. It has the second-highest death toll worldwide, after the United States: more than 225,000 people killed by Covid-19. It is currently in the grip of a nasty second wave that has brought new economic uncertainty.
The Brazilian economy is set to register a contraction of 4.5% for 2020, and make a modest rebound of 3.6% this year, the IMF forecasts.
Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro faces criticism from health experts for his handling of the pandemic, including his resistance of social distancing measures.
He argues business closures and other restrictions are causing economic damage that is worse than the virus itself.
The hit to industrial output was the worst annual contraction for Brazil since 2016, when the figure came in at minus 6.4% in the second year of a record two-year recession.