UK economy still 11.7% below pre-coronavirus levels despite growth in July

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The economy grew 6.6% in July, down from 8.6% in June, as its recovery from coronavirus slowed down.

Despite growth in June and July, the UK is still 11.7% down on where it was in February.

ONS director of economic statistics Darren Morgan said: “While it has continued steadily on the path towards recovery, the UK economy still has to make up nearly half of the GDP lost since the start of the pandemic.

“Education grew strongly as some children returned to school, while pubs, campsites and hairdressers all saw notable improvements. Car sales exceeded pre-crisis levels for the first time with showrooms having a particularly busy time.

“All areas of manufacturing, particularly distillers and car makers, saw improvements, while housebuilding also continued to recover.

“However, both production and construction remain well below previous levels.”

July’s growth in ,onthly gross domestic product (GDP) follows rises of 8.7% in June, 2.4% in May and a record fall of 20.0% in April 2020.

That means we’ve recovered 18.6% from the April 2020 low – but are still 11.7% below the levels seen in February 2020, before the full impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The services sector is the biggest faller, down 12.6% from pre-pandemic levels, followed by construction (11.6% down), manufacturing (8.7% down), production (7% down), and agriculture (2% down).

On a rolling three-month average, accommodation is among the worst affected – down by 69.2% as a result of the closure of hotels and other short-stay accommodation.

Food and drink activities are hit almost as hard, and fell 60.1% as a result of the closure of bars and restaurants.

Even healthcare is down 23.6% as a result of fewer elective operations and fewer accident and emergency visits.

The terrible performance of the food and drink sector in July means all eyes are now on August, to see what impact Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme will have.

Tom Stevenson from Fidelity International said: “August’s GDP print will show the impact of the popular ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme.

“We already know consumer spending in August exceeded last year’s level for the first month since lockdown began, but with social distancing still in place some sectors are struggling to get back on their feet.”

But he was quick to add that things aren’t better yet – despite three months of growth.

“We are far from out of the woods yet,” Stevenson said.

“Covid-19 cases are on the up again, the government is re-imposing restrictions on social gatherings and this, combined with the end of the furlough scheme next month, leaves the outlook uncertain.

“Deteriorating relations with the EU make a no-deal Brexit in January more likely, adding to the UK’s economic challenges and to downward pressure on the pound.”

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