Britain’s economy grew at a record quarterly rate of more than 15% as lockdown restrictions were eased in the summer but the recovery was losing momentum even before new curbs came in, the latest official figures have revealed.
Data from the Office for National Statistics showed that national output expanded by just 1.1% in September – the last month before fresh action was taken to limit the spread of Covid-19.
The ONS said that while the economy had now expanded for five months in a row, the pace of recovery had decelerated. Record growth in the July to September period followed an unprecedented drop of 19.8% in the second quarter and a fall of 2.5% in the first three months of the year.
Gross domestic product – the measure used to gauge the size of the economy – increased by 9.1% in June, 6.3% in July, and 2.2% in August before slowing again in September.
The ONS said there was a boost from children going back to school, which had helped support activity, but there was a slowdown in business for pubs and restaurants due to the end of the “eat out to help out” scheme.
Despite the pickup in activity as the economy began to open up in the late spring and summer, the level of national output in the third quarter was 9.7% below where it was in the last three months of 2019.
Britain’s record compares unfavourably with other leading developed countries, most of which saw smaller falls in output in the second quarter and which have recouped more of the lost ground. The US has the least bad record, with GDP 3.5% below where it was at the end of 2019.
Britain has seen a 22.9% rebound in activity since the economy’s low point in April, but in September was still 8.2% below its level when the crisis began in February, the ONS said.
The services sector – which includes hospitality and leisure – has been the hardest hit and remains 8.8% lower than it was before the spring lockdown was imposed. Manufacturing (-8.1%) and construction (-7.3%) are also well below their level in the early part of the year.