UK economy shrank by 9.9% in 2020, its largest contraction on record

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A man wearing a mask as a preventive measure against the spread of Covid-19 walks in London.

May James | SOPA Images | LightRocket via Getty Images

The U.K. economy contracted by 9.9% in 2020, its largest annual contraction since records began, as the coronavirus pandemic ravaged economic activity.

In the final quarter of the year, gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 1%, according to the Office for National Statistics, as the country re-imposed nationwide lockdown measures in a bid to combat a resurgence of Covid-19 cases.

The 9.9% annual contraction is more than twice that seen in 2009 in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.

Economists polled by Refinitiv had expected an 8% annual decline, in 2020 with a fourth-quarter expansion of 0.5%. This follows a revised 16.1% rebound in the third quarter as social, travel and business restrictions were eased.

As of Friday morning, the U.K. has recorded more than 4 million cases and 115,000 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The U.K. has been blighted by new and more transmissible variants of the virus in recent months.

England remains in a nationwide lockdown with no clear end date, although British Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed on Wednesday that around one in four adults, approximately 13 million people, have now received the first dose of a Covid vaccine.

Monthly GDP in December increased by 1.2% from the previous the month, but remained 6.3% below the level of February 2020. Fourth-quarter GDP remained 6.6% below the level seen in the fourth quarter of 2019.

The services sector grew by 1.7% in December having contracted by 3.1% in November, while manufacturing posted its eighth consecutive month of growth, the ONS said, albeit its smallest incline since May 2020.

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