Economy gathers pace in March after solid retail spending

The reopening of schools in March and solid retail spending helped drive the recovery, according to the ONS

THE UK economy shrank by 1.5 per cent in the first three months of this year but gathered pace again in March as lockdown restrictions began to ease, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS)

The ONS said the reopening of schools in March and solid retail spending helped drive the recovery.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: "Despite a difficult start to this year, economic growth in March is a promising sign of things to come."

It comes after GDP also lifted by an upwardly revised 0.7 per cent in February as the economy becomes more adept at weathering Covid lockdowns.

But this was not enough to offset a 2.5 per cent fall in January - revised down by the ONS from a previous 2.2 per cent estimate - at the start of the lockdown.

The ONS added that first-quarter GDP was still 8.7 per cent below levels seen before the pandemic struck, though the gap narrowed in March to 5.9 per cent below the pre-Covid monthly level.

Ian Stewart, chief economist at Deloitte, said: “The bounce in activity in March is a foretaste of the powerful recovery that is coming. There’s never been a recession caused by having to close the economy; and there’s never been a recovery caused by re-opening it.

“Over the spring and summer we are likely to see more than four years of normal growth packed into just six months. This is no common or garden recovery.”

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