Easing of lockdown restrictions saw economy grow 2.3 per cent in April

Reopening of non-essential retail IN England on April 12 helped the UK economy grow at its fastest rate since July 2020. Picture by Mark Marlow/PA Wire.

THE easing of lockdown restrictions in April helped the UK economy grow at its fastest rate since July 2020, according to new data.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said gross domestic product (GDP) - a measure of economic growth - was up 2.3 per cent in April although it remains below pre-pandemic levels. In July last year the economy grew 7.3 per cent.

It would have been higher if not for a slowdown in the construction sector compared to strong growth in March.

Non-essential retailers in England drove much of the growth as they welcomed customers back into stores from April 12 , with clothes stores seeing a boost of 69.4 per cent.

The delay in reopening non-essential stores in Northern Ireland until April 30 means the impact will not show up until May's data.

Overall growth in the services sector was 3.4 per cent in April, although it remains 4.1 per cent below pre-pandemic levels of February 2020.

This included restaurants, bars and cafes where customers could dine and drink outdoors again, seeing a 39 per cent rise in growth.

Households also took advantage of the ability to travel across the country again, helping caravan parks and holiday lets to grow 68.6 per cent, whilst hairdressers and other personal services grew 63.5 per cent.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: "Today's figures are a promising sign that our economy is beginning to recover.

"With more than a million people coming off furlough across March and April and the number of employees in work rising, it is clear that our Plan for Jobs is working.

"But I know there are people who still need our support, which is why the furlough scheme is in place until September to protect as many jobs as possible".

The construction sector fell by 2 per cent amid a fall in new work - 2.9 per cent - and in repair and maintenance, down 0.6 per cent due to a strong March.

However, the sector has enjoyed a strong pandemic overall and still remains above pre-pandemic levels by 0.3 per cent.

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