The UK economy barely expanded in February due to weaker activity in the health sector, supply chain disruptions and storms, raising concerns over its resilience as the cost of living surges.
Gross domestic output grew 0.1 per cent between January and February, down from 0.8 per cent in the previous month, according to data published on Monday by the Office for National Statistics. That was weaker than the 0.3 per cent forecast by economists polled by Reuters.
Darren Morgan, ONS director of economic statistics, said: “The economy was little changed in February with the easing of restrictions for overseas travel — and increased confidence in booking holidays in the UK — triggering strong growth in travel agencies, tour operators and hotels.”
However, he added that this was partially offset by the reduction of the Test and Trace and vaccination programme, which made a strong contribution to GDP at the start of the year.
Manufacturing production fell 0.4 per cent, with motor manufacturers struggling to source parts. Construction output also fell 0.1 per cent, as storms disrupted activity.
Output growth in the services sector slowed to 0.2 per cent from 0.8 per cent in the previous month. The largest positive contribution to growth was from accommodation and food service activities, which rose by 8.6 per cent. However, this was offset by human health and social work activities, which fell 3.8 per cent, reflecting the reduction in vaccination programmes.
The economy is now 1.5 per cent bigger than its pre-pandemic level.
The figures largely predate Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which pushed up energy and commodities prices as well as costs for UK businesses and consumers.
Samuel Tombs, economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, expects GDP to contract in the second quarter, “as the recovery in consumers’ spending peters out and as output in the health sector continues to fall back to earth”.