The UK economy surged by a record 15.5% between July and September as Britain rebounded out of recession but the recovery slowed sharply even before the second lockdown, official figures show.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the third-quarter growth was the highest since records began in 1955 and came as restrictions eased after the spring lockdown.
It saw the economy bounce back from the 19.8% contraction in the second quarter, which plunged the UK into a record-breaking recession.
But month-on-month growth slowed to 1.1% in September as the Government’s Eat Out To Help Out hospitality-boosting scheme ended and the ONS revealed that gross domestic product (GDP) was still 9.7% below pre-crisis levels.
Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician at the ONS, said: “While all main sectors of the economy continued to recover, the rate of growth slowed again, with the economy still remaining well below its pre-pandemic peak.
“The return of children to school boosted activity in the education sector.
“Housebuilding also continued to recover while business strengthened for lawyers and accountants after a poor August.
“However, pubs and restaurants saw less business after the Eat Out To Help Out scheme ended, and accommodation saw less business after a successful summer.”
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “Today’s figures show that our economy was recovering over the summer, but started to slow going into autumn.
“The steps we’ve had to take since to halt the spread of the virus mean growth has likely slowed further since then.
“But there are reasons to be cautiously optimistic on the health side – including promising news on tests and vaccines.”
He added: “There are still hard times ahead, but we will continue to support people through this and ensure nobody is left without hope or opportunity.”
Suren Thiru, head of economics at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “With output still well short of pre-crisis levels there was little sign of a ‘V’-shaped recovery even before the latest lockdown.
“Although less restrictive than the first, a second lockdown means that output is likely to contract in the fourth quarter. With much of the economy now in a weaker position to withstand periods of extended closure than at the start of the pandemic, the damage to economic activity in the near term may be significant, particularly if restrictions extend beyond 2 December.
“Until a vaccine is rolled out, mass testing remains crucial to getting the economy moving and avoiding further damaging lockdowns. With many firms facing a significant cash crisis, increased grant support for those impacted by restrictions is vital to helping the UK economy weather a difficult winter ahead.”