Business World

Saturday 16 December 2017

UK economic growth better than expected

UK economic growth over the past six months has now hit 2pc. Photo: Bloomberg News
UK economic growth over the past six months has now hit 2pc. Photo: Bloomberg News

Britain's economy grew by a better-than-expected 0.8pc during the third quarter, official figures have revealed.

The quarter-on-quarter rise in gross domestic product (GDP) was less than the 1.2pc surge in the previous three months, but double the growth expected by most experts.

Economic growth over the past six months has now hit 2pc, which is the fastest pace of expansion seen over two consecutive quarters for 10 years, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS said, allowing for a bounce back in the second quarter following the bad weather at the start of the year, the underlying growth between July and September was actually similar to that of the second quarter.

Year-on-year growth has recovered to levels seen before the recession, reaching 2.8pc in the third quarter - the highest annual rate of expansion since 2007.

While the figures are only a preliminary estimate and may be subject to change, the initial growth figures are likely to give a boost to the UK Government's deficit-busting plans.

Labour leader Ed Miliband yesterday accused the Government of taking a "big gamble with growth" by pushing through deep public spending cuts, but a stronger recovery in the private sector should give Britain a better chance of withstanding austerity measures.

The ONS data revealed a surge in construction output helped drive growth in GDP, growing by 4pc during the third quarter and contributing 0.2pc of the overall 0.8pc expansion.

Output in the key services sector - accounting for three quarters of the economy - was 0.6pc, while industrial production also grew by 0.6pc.

GDP has now grown for four consecutive quarters, but there are fears this will not be sustained as the Government cuts take effect.

British prime minister David Cameron promised a "relentless focus on growth" yesterday to help fill the hole left by the coalition's austerity measures, expected to cost 490,000 public sector jobs.

Critics doubt the private sector has the capacity Mr Cameron believes it does to take up the slack in the economy.

Recent figures have started to reveal cracks appearing in the recovery, with business activity pulling back and a slowdown in consumer spending hitting retail sales in recent months.

Industry surveys have revealed falling confidence among firms in both the manufacturing and key services, while a weaker-than-expected result for retail sales in September has added to the concerns, with sales slipping 0.2pc.

The housing market has also started to falter and Nationwide Building Society figures later this week are expected to show a 0.4pc fall in property prices between September and October.

Many are now turning to the future impact of the spending review on economic growth.

Economists are also watching GDP figures closely for clues as to the Bank of England's plans for quantitative easing measures to pump more money into the economy.

Press Association

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