UK economy avoids triple-dip recession

BY: Sebastian Syme

The UK economy has avoided falling back into a recession after recording faster-than-expected growth in the first three months of the year.

The Office for National Statistics said its first estimate for gross domestic product (GDP) showed the economy grew 0.3% during the first quarter of 2013.

Chancellor George Osborne said it was an "encouraging sign".

But the shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, said that the economy was "just back to where it was six months ago".

The growth in GDP means the economy avoided two consecutive quarters of contraction - the definition of a recession. There had been fears the UK would enter its third recession in five years, a so-called triple-dip recession.

Economists say the news should give a small psychological boost to consumers and businesses, but the broader picture of the economy remains the same.

The UK economy has been on a plateau since the financial crisis hit in 2008, with small spurts of growth and contraction.

'Making progress'

The better-than-expected rise in GDP for the first quarter was largely down to strong growth in the services sector and a recovery in North Sea oil and gas output.

The ONS figures also showed that GDP had risen by 0.6% when compared with the first quarter of 2012, the strongest year-on-year increase since the end of 2011.

Chancellor George Osborne said: "Today's figures are an encouraging sign the economy is healing. Despite a tough economic backdrop, we are making progress. The deficit is down by a third, businesses have created over a million and a quarter new jobs, and interest rates are at record lows.

"We all know there are no easy answers to problems built up over many years, and I can't promise the road ahead will always be smooth, but by continuing to confront our problems head on, Britain is recovering and we are building an economy fit for the future," he added.

Matt Basi, from CMC Markets UK, said: "Growth of 0.3% is hardly cause for celebration, but may ease some of the pressure that has been piling on the government's austerity plans."

The chancellor has faced calls from the International Monetary Fund to rethink the pace of the austerity programme.

But the government insists its austerity measures are vital to bringing down borrowing, and guarantee growth in the long-term.