UK economy shrank by a fifth in April as lockdown took hold

Gross domestic product plunged by 20.4%, the largest single month drop since records began in 1997.

UK economy on course for one of its worst quarters in history. Getty Images
UK economy on course for one of its worst quarters in history.

The UK economy contracted by more than a fifth in the first full month of lockdown, as shops and factories closed and workers were sent home.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that economic activity was down by 20.4% in April. It is the largest drop in a single month since records began in 1997.

The fall massively outstrips the then-record 5.8% drop in March gross domestic product (GDP) that the ONS reported last month.

It means that GDP fell by 10.4% in the three months to April and sets the UK on course for one of its worst quarters in history.

Office for National Statistics
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May’s GDP figures are also likely to be awful, before things start to ease again in June as the economy slowly reopens.

Large parts of the British economy were placed on ice on March 23 when Prime Minister Boris Johnson told people they must stay inside and only leave the house when absolutely necessary.

The measures were announced to slow the spread of Covid-19.

Experts had been expecting April’s GDP to contract by 18.7%, according to a consensus compiled by Pantheon Macroeconomics.

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Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician at the ONS, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the 20% drop in April is “unprecedented”.

“Actually, if you take March and April together the fall was 25%. So in two months the economy shrank by a quarter,” he said.

“It is highly likely that April will be the low point of economic output.

“It is really too early to know how quickly economic activity will recover in the coming months,” he added.

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