UK economy sees biggest contraction since 1979

Coronavirus pandemic affected GDP by more than first thought between January and March.

UK economy dropped 2.2% in first quarter. Getty Images
UK economy dropped 2.2% in first quarter.

The UK economy contracted by more than first thought between January and March as the coronavirus crisis saw activity tumble 2.2% in the largest fall since 1979, official figures have shown.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) had previously estimated a 2% drop in first-quarter gross domestic product (GDP), but said the revision came after data now showed a record 6.9% plunge in March.

The quarterly fall in UK GDP is now the joint largest since the third quarter of 1979.

But with the Covid-19 lockdown only coming into force on March 23, the second quarter will show the full hit on the economy after the UK ground to a standstill.

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Recent ONS figures showed the economy plummeted by 20.4% in April – the largest drop in a single month since records began.

Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician at the ONS, said: “Our more detailed picture of the economy in the first quarter showed GDP shrank a little more than first estimated – this is now the largest quarterly fall since 1979.

“Information from Government showed health activities declined more than we previously showed.

“All main sectors of the economy shrank significantly in March as the effects of the pandemic hit.

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“The sharp fall in consumer spending at the end of March led to a notable increase in households’ savings.”

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