The only think you can say with any degree of certainty about Italian consumer confidence of late, is that it is volatile. In September it was up, in October it was down, in November it was back up again, and now in December it is way up, to the highest reading since 2002:
Italian consumer confidence leaped in December to a 4 1/2-year high as economic growth accelerates.
The Rome-based Isae Institute's index, based on a poll of 2,000 households, rose to 113.6, the highest since June 2002, from a revised 109.3 in November.
So the Italian consumer coming into xmas is feeling good, and this is encouraging news, but we still need to see what sorts of readings we get going into 2007 before we can decide whether this is a real recovery, or an above trend boom. As readers know, I have my doubts.
One factor which undoubtedly has been influencing the high spirits is the recent employment data:
Italy's jobless rate unexpectedly dropped to a 14-year low in the third quarter after companies hired more part-time female staffers and foreign workers were legalized.
The unemployment rate fell to 6.8 percent from a revised 6.9 percent in the second quarter, the Rome-based National Statistics Office said in a statement today.
Of course this is data from the third quarter so there is no necessary match with confidence in December, but it would appear from the confidence level that the positive employment trend continues.
In part the improved employment situation seems to come from more part-time female labour being employed, and in part it seems to come from an inward flow of migrants, with the numbers of migrants being employed rising by 13.6% year-on-year (to a total now of 1.5 million).
But before we all start to cheer too loudly, we should think about this:
"Growth in Italy's $1.8 trillion economy will slow to 1.4 percent in 2007 after expanding 1.7 percent this year, according to the latest forecast on Nov. 6 by the European Commission. This compares with the 2.6 percent growth rate of the thirteen countries sharing the euro, and puts Italy on track to lag its partners for an 11th year in 2007."
So even though growth in Italy has improved markedly this year, it still doesn't seem to have gone above 1.7% and the relative position in growth terms of Italy in the EU seems unchanged.
Italy Economy Real Time Data Charts
Edward Hugh is only able to update this blog from time to time, but he does run a lively Twitter account with plenty of Italy related comment. He also maintains a collection of constantly updated Italy economy charts together with short text updates on a Storify dedicated page Italy - Lost in Stagnation?