UK officially in recession for first time in 11 years
Business / Wed 12th Aug 2020 am31 08:44am
THE UK economy suffered its biggest slump on record between April and June as coronavirus lockdown measures pushed the country officially into recession reports the BBC.
The economy shrank 20.4% compared with the first three months of the year.
Household spending plunged as shops were ordered to close, while factory and construction output also fell.
This pushed the UK into its first technical recession – defined as two consecutive quarters of economic decline – since 2009.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the economy bounced back in June as government restrictions on movement started to ease.
Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician for economic statistics, said: “Despite this, gross domestic product (GDP) in June still remains a sixth below its level in February, before the virus struck.”
The ONS said the collapse in output was driven by the closure of shops, hotels, restaurants, schools and car repair shops.
The services sector, which powers four-fifths of the economy, suffered the biggest quarterly decline on record.
Factory shutdowns also resulted in the slowest car production since 1954.
The economic decline was concentrated in April, at the height of lockdown.
On a month-on-month basis, the economy grew by 8.7% in June, building on growth in May.
Clothes stores, bookshops and other non-essential retailers opened their doors in England on 15 June, while construction work jumped after large declines in the previous two months.
Despite this, UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the economic slump would lead to more job losses in the coming months.
Official jobs figures showed the number of people in work fell by 220,000 between April and June.
The drop in the number of people employed was the largest quarterly decrease since May to July 2009, the depths of the financial crisis.
He said: “Hundreds of thousands of people have already lost their jobs, and sadly in the coming months many more will.
“But while there are difficult choices to be made ahead, we will get through this, and I can assure people that nobody will be left without hope or opportunity.”
Business groups urged the government to do more to support the economic recovery.
Alpesh Paleja, an economist at the Confederation of British Industry, said many companies were struggling to pay their bills on time.
He said: “A sustained recovery is by no means assured. The dual threats of a second wave and slow progress over Brexit negotiations are also particularly concerning.”
The Institute of Directors (IoD) said mounting debts made it difficult for businesses to push ahead with spending plans.
Chief economist Tej Parikh said: “Job losses have been mounting, and may only increase as we reach the end of the furlough scheme. The pile of debt businesses have had to take on could also cause a lasting hangover.”
It’s urging the government to cut employers’ national insurance contributions, which would make it cheaper to hire. It also said further grants for small businesses would help them through the pandemic.
While more recent data suggest the recovery is gaining traction, the Bank of England doesn’t expect the economy to get back to its pre-pandemic size until the end of next year.
The Office for Budget Responsibility, the government’s official forecaster, expects the recovery to take even longer.
The UK’s slump is also one of the biggest among advanced economies, according to preliminary estimates.
The economy is more than a fifth smaller than it was at the end of last year. This fall is not as bad as the 22.7% decline in Spain but around twice the size of declines in Germany and the US.
The Bank of England has noted that social spending such as eating out, going to a concert or watching a football match, is a bigger driver of growth in the UK than in America or the eurozone.