Britain‘s gross domestic product (GDP) in volume terms contracted by 2.2 percent in the first quarter (Q1) 2020, hitting the worst quarterly fall since 1979, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said Tuesday.
“Our more detailed picture of the economy in the first quarter showed GDP shrank a little more than first estimated. This is now the largest quarterly fall since 1979,” said Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician at the ONS.
Data showed there were widespread falls in output across most industries in Q1, with services output dropping significantly by 2.3 percent quarterly.
Among the service sector hit heavily by the COVID-19 pandemic, health and social work output in Q1 shrank by 4.2 percent quarter-on-quarter, reflecting “the postponement or cancellation of healthcare treatments as the NHS (National Health Service) prepared to increase its critical care capacity in response to the pandemic,” said the ONS.
Athow commented that “information from government showed health activities declined more than we previously showed.”
Meanwhile, figures showed that education output fell by 6.0 percent in Q1, driven by the partial closure of schools from March 23 onwards as part of the response to the coronavirus pandemic, the ONS added.
In addition, manufacturing and construction output in Q1 fell by 1.1 percent and 1.7 percent respectively, compared with the last quarter.
Notably, household consumption fell by a revised 2.9 percent in Q1, which is the largest fall since late 1979, said the ONS.
“The decline reflects falls in spending on transport, restaurants and hotels and clothing and footwear, in line with those expectations of where social distancing will likely have the most impact,” said the ONS.
“The sharp fall in consumer spending at the end of March led to a notable increase in households’ savings,” added Athow.
According to ONS’s figures issued earlier this month, Britain’s GDP plunged by 20.4 percent in April compared with the previous month, hitting the biggest monthly fall since 1997.