The UK economy grew 2.1% stronger than expected in March from February, accelerating what is expected to be a strong rebound this year after its deep coronavirus collapse of 2020, official data showed on Wednesday.
Growth was led by the retail sector, reopening of schools and the construction sector as the country began to emerge from its winter shutdown of COVID-19.
Economists polled by Reuters expected monthly growth of 1.3%.
In the first three months of 2021, when the country was in a third lockdown, gross domestic product declined 1.5%, the Office for National Statistics said, in line with the Bank of England’s latest forecast.
The BoE also said last week that it expected the world’s fifth-largest economy to recover quickly, with coronavirus restrictions lifted to rise 7.25% in 2021 as a whole.
It would be its fastest growing since a WWII rearmament rush, but would follow a 9.8% GDP collapse in 2020, which was almost the largest in Europe and its deepest collapse in over of three centuries.
“Despite a difficult start to the year, economic growth in March is a promising sign of things to come,” said UK Finance Minister Rishi Sunak.
“As we cautiously reopen the economy, I will continue to take all necessary steps to support our recovery. “
Britain’s economy remained 8.7% smaller than at the end of 2019, before the pandemic hit the West. The BoE expects it to return to its pre-pandemic size by the end of this year.
The UK economy has become more resilient to the imposition of lockdowns since March of last year and the 1.5% drop in the first three months of 2021 was much less severe than initially forecast suddenly. ‘about 4%.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has authorized the reopening of non-essential stores and the resumption of outdoor hospitality in April in England and further easing is expected to take place next week before almost all restrictions are lifted at the end of June.
ONS data showed Britain’s dominant service industry grew 1.9% in March from February, its strongest growth since last August, while manufacturing and construction also grew. increased sharply than expected by analysts in the Reuters poll.
Separate trade figures showed Britain imported more goods from third countries than from EU countries in the first quarter for the first time since records began in 1997.
The ONS warned it was too early to say whether this was the start of a trend or just a short-term disruption.
“Merchandise exports to the EU continued to increase in March and are now almost back to their December level,” ONS statistician Darren Morgan said.
“However, imports from Europe remain weak in the first three months of the year, being overtaken by imports from outside the EU for the first time on record. “
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