Can the British economy sustain this downward slide?

More bad news for the economy? Photo: REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

Will tomorrow's figures show that our economy is in the worst state it has been in for six decades? Really? It is expected that the Office for National Statistics (ONS) will say that the economy shrank between April and June, continuing the squeeze that started back in October.

That would mean we have been in the second slide of this 'double dip' recession for nine long months. We haven't spent that long on a second downward slope of a recession since the 1950s.

The value of all that we make and do in the UK has not recovered to the level it was at before the slump, and it is clearly bad news for the economy to shrink further. That makes it harder for the country to make ends meet, and harder for the Government to stick to its plans to deal with the country's debts.

Chancellor George Osborne (L) and David Cameron launching the Conservative party manifesto which pledged to reduce Britain's debt Credit: Lewis Whyld/PA Wire

While that sounds utterly terrifying, there are two important factors to bear in mind before you get too depressed.

The second 'dip' in this recession has been much, much shallower than the first. At the worst of times, in 2009, the economy was shrinking by as much as two percent over three months. Between March and June there was a fall of 0.3 percent, the sort of drop we expect tomorrow - a much less dramatic shift.

The consensus among big economic brains is that tomorrow's figures will show the economy has been squeezed by just 0.2 percent. But there is no doubt that the psychology of being back in recession can have a damaging impact on the economy, even if the changes are a fraction of a decimal point.

GDP is the total value of all Britain's goods and services, including the products it exports Credit: Chris Ison/PA Wire

And there is growing grumbling in high places over just how reliable the GDP figures themselves are. With the recent jobs figures looking healthier and some business group surveys suggesting firms are actually feeling more optimistic, there appears to be a mismatch between the mood the ONS captures and the picture other sets of statistics paint.

Can the economy really be shrinking if the number of jobs in the private sector is growing? And remember tomorrow's figures will be the first estimate of the numbers and could later be revised. But the ONS itself defends its surveys, and while they may not be perfect, in truth they are the most comprehensive we have.

ITV News will bring you the GDP figures when they come out, plus instant analysis and reaction, at 9.30am tomorrow morning.

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