RECORD export figures and a resurgence in the construction sector were last night hailed as further evidence that the British economy is starting to thrive again.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released yesterday revealed that the value of goods exported from the UK jumped to £78.4 billion between April and June, reaching its highest ever level in June.
Output from Britain’s construction sector also rose more than first thought between April and June, jumping 1.4 per cent on the first three months of the year.
Economists last night welcomed the figures, saying they were more good news for the economy. They come after hopeful indicators through the week, including figures showing manufacturing has hit its highest level in 21 years, new car sales rising 12.7 per cent and average house prices jumping £10,000.
The all-time high export figures for the second quarter came after a record-breaking performance in June, with exports of £26.9bn, up by £1.3bn from May, according to the ONS.
This saw the UK trade deficit on goods – the balance between imports and exports – narrow to a better-than-expected £8.1bn in June from £8.7bn the previous month.
Meanwhile, private-sector housebuilding across the UK surged 7.6 per cent from the weather-hit first quarter and was up 8.2 per cent on the second quarter of 2012.
Last night, the Treasury said the data was evidence the economy was on the road to recovery after a week of good economic news for the coalition.
Opposition parties warned it was too early to celebrate.
Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at IHS Global Insight, said the latest export figures were “more good news for the economy”.
He added: “The construction sector is seemingly increasingly shrugging off its long-term problems and now contributing to growth.”
Kate Evans, economist at the Centre for Economics and Business Research, said: “Rising export growth and stronger manufacturing output spell good news for the UK economy.
“While we expect growth of at least one per cent this year, with more government cuts on the horizon and households still facing slow wage growth, there is a limit to the support domestic demand can provide to the economy. A sustained improvement in exports would put UK growth on a surer footing moving forwards.”
Earlier this week, the new governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney appeared to give a stamp of approval to the government’s strategy by stating the economy is now recovering and the effects are broadening across different sectors.
Last night, a Treasury spokesman said: “The positive news that has been released right across the economy this week shows that the UK is on the mend. But there is a long way to go and we know that things are still tough for families.
“The government is determined to take the tough decisions to right what went wrong in the UK economy and deliver sustainable jobs and growth”.
Labour’s business spokesman Ian Murray, MP for Edinburgh South, said: “Improved export figures are always welcome but the government should not be declaring victory with the economy. George Osborne’s policies have left growth very low and he has already had to abandon borrowing targets.
“The government needs to come up with an effective growth policy or else the economy will continue to flatline.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Scotland’s export performance is strong, showing the widespread strength of Scotland’s economy in different sectors, and recent manufactured-export figures show that the volume of sales grew by 2.5 per cent during the first quarter of 2013.”