UK economy flatlines in April, official figures show

Business

The UK economy flatlined in April, according to early official figures that have been seized on by the government’s critics as evidence the Conservatives’ plan is not working.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said there was zero growth in April compared to the 0.4% figure recorded during March.

A Reuters news agency poll of economists had predicted the 0% performance given earlier evidence that wet weather had knocked retail sales and construction output particularly hard.

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The GDP (gross domestic product) report from the ONS – the last to be released ahead of the election – showed UK overall rainfall at 155% of the long-term average in April.

Construction output was found to have declined by 1.4% as a result, the number crunchers said, also aided by poor demand for construction products in the manufacturing sector.

Production was down by 0.9% while the mighty services sector – accounting for almost 80% of UK output – grew by just 0.2%.

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Despite the emphasis on the hit from rain, the numbers still represent a setback for prime minister Rishi Sunak’s key election argument that the economy is improving.

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The UK exited a short-lived recession at the end of 2023 when growth of 0.6% was registered in the first quarter of the current year.

While economists continue to see growth in the three months to June, expectations are for growth of around 0.3% – half the rate achieved between January and March.

Liberal Democrat Treasury spokeswoman Sarah Olney said the lack of growth showed the Tories had “utterly failed” to deliver on their promises.

“As Rishi Sunak’s time as prime minister peters out, so does the UK’s economic growth,” she said.

“The Conservatives have utterly failed to deliver the growth they repeatedly promised, instead presiding over stagnation and economic misery for hardworking families across the country.

“The Conservatives’ manifesto shows they simply lack the ambition and vision to get the economy moving again.

“It’s clear for voters across the country that the only way to make it happen is to vote them out of office on July 4.”


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