Britain's double-dip recession erased after data revisions

Richard Edgar

Former Economics Editor

Revisions to last year’s data now indicate the country didn’t actually go into a double-dip recession last year. Credit: PA Wire

What economists are not very good at is forecasting. But they are blessed with hindsight and offer ever better analyses of what happened in the past and the reasons for it.

So today we have a new and improved view of just how bad things were in the recession of 2008-2009 and what that means for us still today.

The recession is now thought by the Office for National Statistics to have been even deeper than earlier estimates – a savage contraction of 7.2 per cent rather than the fall of 6.3 per cent we were told before.

A full six years later, the economy is still recovering but is now thought to be even further behind where it was before the crisis hit - 3.9 per cent lower instead of the already depressing 2.6 per cent registered until today’s data was published.

These are quite hefty revisions to the data and cast doubts over its reliability. Andrew Goodwin, an adviser to the Ernst and Young ITEM Club (which provides economic analysis) points out that government policy might have been different if politicians had known how bad the situation was.

So what about the more recent past? Well there are two pieces of good news. The first is that revisions to last year’s data now indicate the country didn’t actually go into a double-dip recession last year.

The change is from -0.1 per cent in one quarter to 0.0 per cent. It’s minuscule and makes no difference in broad terms but it removes the “double-dip” moniker from the Chancellor so there are political ramifications.

And maybe some economic ones after all: the British Chambers of Commerce points out that the bad press the double-dip generated may actually have done more harm to business confidence than any real economic flows. Noted.

Finally, the ONS has left its measurement of growth in the economy in the first three months of this year unchanged at 0.3 per cent. What a relief.

And what of the future? Where do we go from here? Well, most economists think we’re gradually recovering and forecasts for growth this year of around 1 per cent. But you might want to take that with a pinch of salt.