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Supply and demand shocks due to the coronavirus pandemic contribute equally to contraction in production


Published: 05 November 2020

Een vrouw die wandelt in een winkelcentrum rond de kerst

The COVID-19 pandemic has a significant negative impact on the Dutch economy due to both constraints on production (supply side) and a reduction in spending (demand side). In the second quarter of 2020, negative supply and demand shocks contributed about the same amount to the economic contraction. This is true at both the national and sectoral level, although some sectors have been hit harder than others, according to an analysis by DNB of supply and demand shocks in the second quarter. The number of hours worked has also fallen sharply during this period, which can largely be attributed to shortfalls on the demand side of the labour market. Negative shocks in labour demand were largest in sectors with relatively high numbers of flex workers.

The effects of supply and demand shocks on contraction in production are equally strong

The COVID-19 pandemic can be seen as both a supply shock and a demand shock. On the one hand, on the supply side, workplaces are closed in order to prevent the spread of the virus, which partly halts production. These supply effects can be amplified if (cross-border) supply chains are disrupted. On the other hand, on the demand side, households are less likely to leave their homes, for example because of containment measures or the fear of becoming infected, which reduces consumption. An increase in unemployment and a fall in income could further exacerbate these demand effects.

For stabilisation policy to be effective, it is important to take into account the relative magnitude of supply effects compared to demand effects. After all, a major downturn on the supply side requires a different policy response than a strong drop in demand. The relative importance of supply and demand shocks is also relevant for monetary policy, as inflation usually responds differently to a supply shock than to a demand shock.

Compared to the first three months of this year, the second quarter showed a sharp contraction in Dutch production due to the pandemic and the corresponding containment measures. The pandemic has also led to a significant decline in economic activity in most business sectors. In Figure 1, production growth in the second quarter is broken down into the part that can be explained by either supply shocks or demand shocks, both at national level (top row) and sectoral level. Supply and demand shocks are identified on the basis of conventional economic theory: a positive supply shock is a shock that leads to an increase in production and a decrease in prices, while a positive demand shock increases both production and prices. By imposing these restrictions, the supply and demand shocks can be estimated using an econometric model. Figure 1 shows that the economic contraction in April to June is roughly equally accounted for by negative supply and demand shocks. The hardest affected sectors are Culture, Sports & Leisure, Trade, Transport, Storage & the Catering Industry, and Business Services. This follows from the fact that containment measures mainly concerned the services sector and because the Netherlands is an open economy in which international trade plays a major role. The Information & Communications sector showed a small positive demand shock, which may have to do with an increase in demand for telework-related services.

Figure 1 - Contribution of supply and demand shocks to production growth (2020 Q2)

Contribution of supply and demand shocks to production growth (2020 Q2)

Contraction in labour market activity is mostly due to a decline in labour demand

The pandemic also leads to supply and demand shocks in the labour market. On the one hand, there may be a fall in labour supply because people infected by the virus are less productive and/or work fewer hours. On the other hand, the downturn of the economy and the implementation of containment measures may lead to a reduction in labour demand, particularly in sectors heavily dependent on physical interactions.

Figure 2 - Contribution of supply and demand shocks to the growth rate of hours worked (2020 Q2)

Contribution of supply and demand shocks to the growth rate of hours worked (2020 Q2)

Figure 2 shows the relative contributions of these supply and demand shocks in the labour market in the second quarter, again at the national and sectoral level. Labour market activity is measured by the number of hours worked. In general, there has been a sharp decline in labour market activity, and here too, the contraction is greatest in the sectors Culture, Sports & Entertainment, Trade, Transport, Storage & the Catering Industry, and Business Services. It is striking that, in all sectors, the reduction in hours worked can, for the most part, be explained by a drop in labour demand. Supply factors played a significantly less important role. In sectors with relatively many flex workers, such as the Temporary Agency Work sector, negative demand shocks were the largest.

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