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Thursday, October 28, 2021

UK lockdown rebound stronger than first thought


The economic rebound triggered by the easing of Covid restrictions during spring was stronger than initial estimates, official figures show.

From April to June the UK’s economy grew by 5.5%, which was higher than the previous estimate of 4.8%, the Office for National Statistics said.

Spending on retail and hospitality surged after lockdowns lifted.

However, the UK economy was still 3.3 percent smaller than it had been in the fourth quarter of 2019, prior to the pandemic.

Household spending was the largest contributor to the economic boost, which came after restrictions on outdoor dining were relaxed in April.

Health care and the arts also fared better than the ONS had anticipated.

“The economy grew more in the second quarter than previously estimated,” said Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician at the ONS. “The latest data show health services and the arts performing better than initially thought.” The revised figures also show that households have been saving less than previously thought in recent years.

“Household saving fell sharply in the most recent quarter from record highs seen during the pandemic, as many people were able to spend again on shopping, eating out, and driving their cars.”

However, while spending increased following the early 2021 lockdown, recent GDP figures show that the recovery has slowed.

The “pingdemic” that saw many employees self-isolate after being alerted by the NHS Test and Trace app slowed growth in July.

In July, growth was only 0.1 percent, down from 1.4 percent in June.

Some economists are concerned that the recovery is being stymied by supply chain issues affecting industries ranging from fuel supply to supermarkets.

There are also concerns that rising inflation will cause consumers to cut back on their spending.

The Bank of England recently reduced its third-quarter growth forecast to 2.1 percent from 2.9 percent, blaming the more pessimistic outlook on supply chain issues and labour shortages.

The ONS said it had revised up its second quarter GDP estimates after “numerous improvements to our data sources and methods”, with more complete data also from the health sector.

It also revised its first-quarter 2021 estimate, estimating that the economy shrank by 1.4 percent rather than 1.6 percent.

It went on to say that the economy would contract by a record 9.7 percent in 2020, after previously forecasting a 9.8 percent drop.

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