UK economy flatlines in February as nation narrowly avoids dipping into a recession
Teachers’ and Civil Service strike action acted as one of the biggest drags on gross domestic product (GDP), with thousands of workers walking out during the month in England and Wales.
The decline in the services sector offset growth in the construction sector, which saw a rebound particularly due to more mild weather and from new work and repairs.
Analysts had expected GDP to grow by 0.1% in February, month-on-month, according to a consensus forecast supplied by Pantheon Macroeconomics.
To two decimal places, the economy eked up by just 0.02% in February.
But looking at the broader picture, GDP grew by 0.1% in the three months to February.
It comes as the ONS said the UK’s consumer prices index (CPI) inflation rate surged to 10.4% in the same month, unexpectedly jumping higher despite efforts from the Bank of England to pull it back to its 2% target.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said: “The economic outlook is looking brighter than expected – GDP grew in the three months to February and we are set to avoid recession thanks to the steps we have taken through a massive package of cost-of-living support for families and radical reforms to boost the jobs market and business investment.”
The economy grew by 0.4% in January, revised from the 0.3% the ONS previously predicted, meaning it saw a slowdown the following month.
Nevertheless, the UK avoided falling into a recession at the end of last year, with GDP edging up by 0.1% over the final three months.
A recession is generally defined in the UK as two quarters of declining GDP in a row.
GDP would need to sink below 0.6% in March for the economy to have shown negative growth in the latest quarter, the ONS said.
ONS director of economic statistics Darren Morgan said: “The economy saw no growth in February overall.
“Construction grew strongly after a poor January, with increased repair work taking place.
“There was also a boost from retailing, with many shops having a buoyant month.
“These were offset by the effects of Civil Service and teachers’ strike action, which impacted the public sector, and unseasonably mild weather led to falls in the use of electricity and gas.”
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