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UK economy slumps by record 10% in 2020 after COVID hit

Britain’s coronavirus-ravaged economy suffered its biggest crash in output in more than 300 years in 2020 when it slumped by 9.9%, but it avoided heading back towards recession at the end of the year and looks on course for a recovery in 2021. Official figures showed gross domestic product (GDP) grew 1.0% from October through December, the top of a range of economists’ forecasts in a Reuters poll. This makes it likely that Britain will escape two straight quarters of contraction – the standard definition of recession in Europe – even though the economy is set to shrink in early 2021 due to the effects of a third COVID lockdown.

Britain’s economy grew 1.2% in December alone, after a 2.3% fall in output in November when there was a partial lockdown, pointing to greater resilience to COVID restrictions than at the start of the pandemic. That left output 6.3% lower than in February before the start of the pandemic, the Office for National Statistics said. However, the Bank of England forecasts the economy will shrink by 4% in the first three months of 2021 because of the new lockdown and Brexit disruption.

It thinks it will take until early 2022 before GDP regains its pre-COVID size, assuming vaccination continues at the current rapid pace, which outstrips the rest of Europe’s. Many economists think recovery will take longer. Unemployment has risen much less than feared at the start of the crisis, largely due to subsidies to keep people in work, though sectors such as hospitality and high-street retail remain hard hit.

UK economy slumps by record 10% in 2020 after COVID hit, Reuters, Feb 12

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