'Bumps along the way' likely despite UK economy growing at fastest pace in nine months

The UK economy grew at its fastest rate in nine months in April as lockdown restrictions began to ease but experts have warned that the pandemic is likely to cause further “bumps along the way”.

Gross domestic product (GDP) – a measure of economic growth – was up 2.3 per cent month on month in April although it remains below pre-pandemic levels. It marks the fastest monthly growth since July last year when the economy grew by 7.3 per cent, following the easing of the first lockdown.

April’s reading would have been higher if not for a slowdown in the construction sector compared to strong growth in March.

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Non-essential retailers drove much of the growth as they welcomed customers back into stores from April 12 in England, and April 26 in Scotland, with clothes stores seeing a boost of 69.4 per cent.

The economy is expected to benefit from the gradual reopening of key sectors such as hospitality. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

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.”

Derrick Dunne, chief executive at Beaufort Investment, said: “[The data] is the strongest sign yet that it’s full steam ahead for the economic recovery, though we still can’t escape the likelihood of bumps along the way.

“We’re not yet out of the economic woods – far from it. The British Chambers of Commerce this week predicted that UK GDP will grow by 6.8 per cent this year in the sharpest annual rise since records began, but it has also warned that a delay to the easing of lockdown restrictions could significantly slow the return to pre-pandemic levels.”

Debapratim De, senior economist at Deloitte, remained upbeat, noting: “April and March’s GDP figures provide an early indication of the strong summer recovery coming the UK’s way.

“Vaccines and better weather seem set to supercharge activity. We expect the spring and summer months to deliver growth of almost 7.5 per cent. That is higher than the cumulative growth seen in the four years before the pandemic.”

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