The British economy returned to growth more slowly than expected in May as coronavirus lockdown restrictions were gradually relaxed after the sharpest plunge on record a month earlier.
Manufacturing and house building showed signs of recovery in May as some firms saw staff return to work. But the Office for National Statistics said the economy was “in the doldrums”.
The Office for National Statistics said gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 1.8% in May as the economy staged a modest recovery from April when GDP crashed by a fifth during the first full month of lockdown.
After the biggest collapse in activity since records began, economists had expected some recovery in activity in May as the government eased restrictions on movement. However, the bounce-back was weaker than the growth of 5.5% forecast by City economists. In the three months to May, the economy shrank by 19.1% compared with the previous three-month period, the ONS said.
“The economy was still a quarter smaller in May than in February before the full effects of the pandemic struck,” said Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician for economic statistics at the ONS.
“In the important services sector, we saw some pick-up in retail, which saw record online sales. However, with lockdown restrictions remaining in place, many other services remained in the doldrums, with a number of areas seeing further declines.”