Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found GDP fell 5.8 percent in March, services slumped by 6.2 percent and construction was hit by 5.9 percent – record monthly falls, while manufacturing also slumped 4.6 percent as the coronavirus firms its grip on the UK economy.
The first quarter fall was the worst since the end of 2008 at the height of the financial crisis, while the March monthly plunge marked a record tumble.
GDP fell by 2.0 percent in the three months to March 2020, following no growth in the three months to February, signalling the first direct impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on the economy.
Reacting to the figures, transport minister Grant Shapps said everyone would have expected a blow to the economy before warning there was more to come.
He pledged that it was clear the UK would not go back to a period of austerity to pay for the economic measures taken during the pandemic.
Jonathan Athow, Deputy National Statistician for Economic Statistics, said: “With the arrival of the pandemic nearly every aspect of the economy was hit in March, dragging growth to a record monthly fall.
“Services and construction saw record declines on the month with education, car sales and restaurants all falling substantially.
“Although very few industries saw growth, there were some that did including IT support and the manufacture of pharmaceuticals, soaps and cleaning products.
“The pandemic also hit trade globally, with UK imports and exports falling over the last couple of months, including a notable drop in imports from China.”
Figures for April are likely to show an even bigger fall because the entire month was spent under lockdown by British companies and consumers.
Last week, the Bank of England said Britain’s economy could be heading for its sharpest annual slump in GDP in more than 300 years, saying a 14 percent fall was possible, followed potentially by a 15 percent rise in 2021.
The ONS said output in Britain’s giant services sector fell by a record 1.9 percent in the first quarter and there were also significant contractions in production and construction.
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