Double-dip recession deeper than feared

GDP figures
GDP has shrunk by 0.3% for the first quarter, revised down from a first estimate of 0.2%. Photo: Reuters

The double-dip recession is deeper than originally feared as revised figures showed a sharper decline in the economy in the first three months of 2012.

Gross domestic product (GDP) shrank by 0.3% between January and March, down from a first estimate of 0.2%, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

The change was driven by a worse-than-previously estimated performance from the nation's builders, as construction output fell 4.8%, down from a drop of 3%, the steepest decline in 11 years.

The second estimate, which could be revised later, means the UK is in a technical recession - defined as two quarters of decline in a row - following a 0.2% fall in the final three months of 2011.

The latest figures will heap more pressure on the Government and fuel criticism that Chancellor George Osborne's austerity measures are choking off the recovery.

The Labour Party and Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna have criticised the Government, saying the results "make a mockery" of recovery claims.

Rose1_normal

Today's ONS GDP stats make a mockery of Cameron and Osborne's claim that the economy is on the right track.

Chuka_umunna-5d_normal

Economists said the growth estimate for Q1 2011 wld be revised up - it has been revised down. Yet another damning indictment of govt policy

Today's results also dash hopes that the figures could be revised upwards, possibly into positive territory, after some economists cast doubt on their accuracy.

Today's results in numbers:

  • Gross Domestic Product (GDP) decreased by 0.3% in the first quarter of 2012, revised from an estimated decline of 0.2%.
  • The construction industry fell by 4.8%, the steepest decline in 11 years.
  • Production industries fell by 0.4%, within which manufacturing was flat.
  • Service industries rose by 0.1%.
  • Government spending surged 1.6%, the biggest rise since the first quarter of 2008, driven by spending on health and defence.
  • Household spending increased by 0.1% in the first quarter, compared to 0.4% growth in the final quarter of last year.
  • Business investment rose by £1.1 billion, or 4%, to £30.8 billion when compared to the previous quarter, driven by investment in electricity, gas and water, and mining and quarrying industries.

The current downturn is expected to be nothing like as severe as the previous recession of 2008/09, which spanned more than a year.

James Knightley, economist at ING, said the high levels of Government spending called the Chancellor's austerity measures into question, while Vicky Redwood, chief UK economist at Capital Economics, said Government support would not last.

Of course, the GDP figures could yet be revised back up again in the future.

But with so many factors holding back the recovery, we still expect the economy to contract by about 0.5% this year as a whole.

– Vicky Redwood, chief UK economist at Capital Economics