Economy has 'real momentum' and people will start to feel it, claims Sunak as UK exits recession

The prime minister has told ITV News Economics Editor Joel Hills that the UK economy has "turned a corner" - as official figures show it has moved out of recession

Rishi Sunak has insisted people will soon start to feel better off financially, as the country comes out of a technical recession.

The prime minister reiterated his plan is working to grow the economy, which he now says has a "real momentum" to it.

The UK economy grew by 0.6% between January and March, according to the Office for National Statistics. This takes the country officially out of a recession.

The prime minister told ITV News Economics Editor Joel Hills that although there's 'clearly more work to do', he's 'encouraged' by today's figures

It comes after two quarters of decline – which represents a technical recession – in the back half of 2023.

The prime minister told ITV News: "Clearly there's more work to do but I am encouraged that after a tough couple of years - with the pandemic, energy bills, Ukraine - what today's data shows is that the economy has real momentum.

"And I am confident that people will start to feel the benefits of that."

However, put to him that people are not feeling any better off financially, with GDP per head crucially down to levels lower than they were before the pandemic, and before the PM came into office.

"When I became prime minister inflation was also at 11%," he argued, adding: "Whereas inflation now is down at 3% and the Bank of England governor expects it will return close to target in the next couple of months."

Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves said the Tories should not be 'doing a victory lap' as the economy is 'still £300 smaller per person'

A consensus of economists had predicted a 0.4% improvement for the latest quarter.

It represented the strongest quarterly growth since the fourth quarter of 2021.

The performance was particularly driven by improvements in the services and production sectors, which grew by 0.7% and 0.8% respectively.

On Friday, the ONS confirmed the quarterly performance after 0.4% economic growth in March, again boosted by the UK’s service industry.

There was notable growth for the human health and social services sector, administrative and support services, as well as for wholesale and retail firms.

Construction output, however, fell during the month, but its 0.4% drop represented a significant reduction in decline after a 2% fall in February.

But Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves was less optimistic about the UK's move out of a recession, stating the economy is still "£300 smaller per person than when Rishi Sunak became prime minister."

Ms Reeves added: “This is no time for Conservative ministers to be doing a victory lap and telling the British people that they have never had it so good.

"The economy is still £300 smaller per person than when Rishi Sunak became prime minister."

She added: “After 14 years of economic chaos, working people are still worse off. Prices are still significantly higher in the shops, families are paying hundreds of pounds more on monthly mortgage bills, and the economy is forecast to grow by just one per cent next year.

“It’s time for change. Only Labour has a long-term plan to grow the economy, create jobs and make working people better off.”

Responding to the GDP figures, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said: “There is no doubt it has been a difficult few years, but today’s growth figures are proof that the economy is returning to full health for the first time since the pandemic.

“We’re growing this year and have the best outlook among European G7 countries over the next six years, with wages growing faster than inflation, energy prices falling and tax cuts worth £900 to the average worker hitting bank accounts.”

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