COVID-19: Economy returned to reverse gear in November as lockdowns choked fightback

The UK economy returned to a reverse gear in November as tightened coronavirus restrictions took their toll on the fightback from the steepest recession on record, according to official figures.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported a 2.6% slump in output during the month – building on a loss of momentum that began late last summer.

November was the month that England joined other parts of the UK in a second lockdown.

The first, which was UK-wide and began in March, was responsible for the unprecedented slump that saw most of the economy placed in virus hibernation.

The ONS said the economy was 8.5% below its pre-pandemic level by November and experts have warned that the UK faces the prospect of a double-dip recession given measures to contain COVID-19 since then.

However, the negative growth figure was much better than the 5.7% economists had predicted.

The ONS also upwardly revised October’s growth to 0.6% from an earlier estimate of 0.4% and said it was clear that the impact of restrictions in November were less severe than during the first lockdown as more businesses operated.

Nevertheless, November’s decline still represented the first monthly drop in output since April.

On a sector-by-sector basis, construction saw the best growth while services, which accounts for almost 80% of the economy, and factory output both declined.

Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, responded: “It’s clear things will get harder before they get better and today’s figures highlight the scale of the challenge we face.

“But there are reasons to be hopeful – our vaccine roll-out is well underway and through our Plan for Jobs we’re creating new opportunities for those most in need.

“With this support, and the resilience and enterprise of the British people, we will get through this.”

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