UK economy enjoys 'robust' second-quarter rebound as lockdown measures ease

The UK economy grew by a “robust” 4.8 per cent in the three months to the end of June as lockdown restrictions eased, getting people back into bars and restaurants.

Official figures show that gross domestic product (GDP) – a measure of economic output – increased by a further 1 per cent in June, creating five consecutive months of growth, following a sharp contraction amid the height of the pandemic.

The economy also accelerated from 0.6 per cent growth in May, the Office for National Statistics said.

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Lockdown restrictions slowly eased through much of the second quarter of 2021.

Outdoor dining opened again in April, the first month the quarterly ONS data includes, and further restrictions were lifted in May. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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Outdoor dining opened again in April, the first month the quarterly data includes, and further restrictions were lifted in May.

ONS deputy national statistician for economic statistics Jonathan Athow said: “GDP is still around two percentage points below its pre-pandemic peak.”

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Economists at Pantheon Macroeconomics had expected GDP to grow by 0.6 per cent in June, and 4.7 per cent across the quarter.

Suren Thiru, head of economics at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: “The latest data confirms a robust rebound in output in the second quarter as the UK economy unlocked and restrictions eased.

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“The increase in output in the second quarter largely reflected a striking rise in household spending as the easing of restrictions helped consumers spend some of their ‘unanticipated’ savings accumulated during lockdowns, boosting output from consumer facing services firms.

“Business investment remains well short of pre-pandemic levels following an underwhelming revival in the second quarter and means that it may be a weak point of the recovery, limiting UK productivity and competitiveness.”

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Maike Currie, investment director at Fidelity International, said: “Today’s UK GDP figures are a welcome confirmation of economic growth during the second quarter, and shouldn’t be underestimated despite falling short of the Bank of England’s expected 5 per cent rise it had predicted for the period.

“With lockdown restrictions in place for most of the first quarter, Q2 paints a far more optimistic picture of life returning to something more ‘normal’.

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“Despite the 4.8 per cent quarterly growth reported, there are still a number of ‘unknowns’ around the corner.”

Steve Clayton, fund manager at HL Select, said the latest figures “knock fears over the impact of the Delta variant on the head”.

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He added: “Consumers are continuing to spend, regardless. The economy is still some 4.4 per cent smaller than it was at the end of 2019, but is clawing that back with each month.

“With the big surge of the initial reopening behind us, we expect the pace of growth to moderate over the remainder of the year. But if businesses pick up the baton and start investing to support growth once more, then we could see upside to our already positive view of the prospects for the UK economy this year.”

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Sam Fuller, director of Financial Markets Online, noted: “The contrast between the locked-down first three months of the year with the second quarter was widely predicted but is no less remarkable for that.”

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