- The UK economy grew 2.3% in April as the government eased restrictions on the service sector.
- Britain’s economy remained 3.7% below its February 2020 level, before COVID-19 struck.
- Economists think the economy should grow further in May, when more rules were eased.
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The UK economy grew 2.3% in April, figures showed on Friday, as restrictions were relaxed and pubs and restaurants in England were allowed to serve people outside.
April’s 2.3% growth in gross domestic product was the strongest since July 2020, when the economy rebounded from the first coronavirus lockdowns, although it was marginally below economists’ estimates of a 2.5% expansion.
The service sector grew a strong 3.4% in April, aided by the easing of lockdowns in the middle of the month, the Office for National Statistics said.
The pound slipped slightly after the figures were released, but was roughly flat against the dollar at $1.418.
“Strong growth in retail spending, increased car and caravan purchases, schools being open for the full month and the beginning of the reopening of hospitality all boosted the economy in April,” Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician at the ONS, said.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the UK GDP figures were “a promising sign that our economy is beginning to recover.”
Despite the strong growth, UK GDP remained 3.7% smaller than in February 2020, before COVID-19 struck, according to the ONS.
Another factor boosting the UK economy has been the rapid national rollout of coronavirus vaccines. Almost 60% of Britons have had their first dose, according to Our World In Data.
The vaccine drive has so far allowed the government to stick to its timetable for reopening the economy. However, the rise in the delta variant, first discovered in India, could postpone the lifting of all restrictions, which was due on June 21.
The government lifted more restrictions in England in May, allowing people to go inside pubs and restaurants, and reopening cinemas.
“Most indicators suggest that the recovery progressed at a solid pace in May, especially after more restrictions on services businesses were lifted on May 17,” Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said.
“For instance, the composite [purchasing managers’ index] increased in May to its highest level since records began in 1998, while data from the British Retail Consortium suggest that retail sales volumes rose a little further, despite already exceeding their 2019 average by 10% in April.”