The UK economy grew by 0.3 per cent in the first quarter of this year compared with a year earlier, avoiding a triple-dip recession and beating expectations, new figures released today reveal.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), GDP rose 0.4 per cent on the same period in 2011, meaning that growth has been “broadly flat” over the past 18 months, though has avoided two consecutive quarters of shrinkage and thus side-stepped a third recession.
Compared with the first quarter of 2012, GDP grew 0.6 per cent, representing the strongest year-on-year boost since the end of 2011.
Services industries contributed the greatest growth over the quarter, increasing by 0.6 per cent while an improvement in North Sea output also boosted the overall figure after a weak fourth quarter of 2012.
While declines in the construction industries offset these rises, snowfall and cold weather over the first three months of the year “appears to have had a limited impact on GDP growth”, the ONS said, as boosted demand for electricity and gas in February and March increased output from energy suppliers.
Commenting on the latest figures, 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.”
However, other MPs and experts, including Business Secretary Vince Cable who last week increased the national minimum wage by 1.9 per cent to £6.31, warned that more needs to be done to encourage growth and that “there is still a long way to go”.