The British economy returned to growth more slowly than expected in May following the sharpest plunge on record a month earlier, triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.
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. However, the bounce back was weaker than a 5.5% growth rate forecast by City economists.
With thousands of companies forced to close temporarily to limit the spread of the virus, Britain’s dominant services sector – which makes up about 80% of the economy – grew by just 0.9% on the month, dragged down by falling levels of activity in arts, entertainment and recreation, as well as at estate agents and IT firms.
Manufacturing and construction grew by more than 8% from the level of economic output in April, as activity at factories and on building sites began to recover with physical distancing measures in place.