// ONS says GDP as up 2.3% in April although it remains below pre-pandemic levels
// This is the fastest rate of growth since July last year
// The reopening of non-essential retail in April is the main driver behind the growth
The easing of lockdown restrictions for non-essential retail in April helped the UK economy grow at its fastest rate since July 2020 as households returned to high street stores, according to new data.
The ONS said gross domestic product (GDP) – a measure of economic growth – was up 2.3 per cent in April although it remains below pre-pandemic levels.
In July last year the economy grew 7.3 per cent.
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The ONS said the April growth rate would have been higher if not for a slowdown in the construction sector compared to strong growth in March.
Non-essential retailers drove much of the growth as they welcomed customers back into stores from April 12 in England and Wales, with fashion retailers seeing a boost of 69.4 per cent.
Overall growth in the services sector was 3.4 per cent, although it remains 4.1 per cent below pre-pandemic levels of February 2020.
This included restaurants, bars and cafes on high streets where customers could dine and drink outdoors again, seeing a 39 per cent rise in growth.
Meanwhile other high street businesses, such as hairdressers and other personal services, grew 63.5 per cent.
“Today’s figures are a promising sign that our economy is beginning to recover,” Chancellor Rishi Sunak said.
“With more than a million people coming off furlough across March and April and the number of employees in work rising, it is clear that our Plan for Jobs is working.
“But I know there are people who still need our support, which is why the furlough scheme is in place until September to protect as many jobs as possible”.
with PA Wires