The UK economy is still 9 per cent smaller than it was before Covid-19

Spain is the only major European economy that has suffered a sharper downturn than Britain.

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The UK’s GDP grew by 2.1 per cent in March 2021, the highest month-on-month growth since last August, but the economy is still far below its pre-pandemic level. 

The newest data from the ONS shows that despite growth in March as the lockdown was eased, the economy contracted by 1.5 per cent in the first quarter of 2021, leaving it 8.7 per cent smaller than it was in the final quarter of 2019.

UK and Spanish economies still nearly 10 per cent smaller than pre-pandemic
Change in real GDP between Q4 2019 and Q1 2021

France, Germany, Italy and the US are all estimated to have experienced smaller contractions than the UK, with the American economy now only 0.9 per cent below its 2019 level (though the ONS emphasises the difficulties of accurate international comparisons). 

Spain is one of the few major economies that has fared worse than the UK, with a 9.4 per cent decline in GDP since the end of 2019.

The upside for the UK economy is that the latest figures suggest the rapid vaccine roll-out – and the sharp drop in Covid-19 cases and deaths – might lead to a faster recovery than in other parts of the world. The Bank of England on 6 May forecast that UK GDP will grow by 7.25 per cent this year, the fastest rate since 1941. 

Katharine Swindells is a New Statesman Media Group data journalist. 

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