Full story: UK economy back to pre-pandemic levels in November
The UK economy surpassed its pre-pandemic level for the first time in November after growing by 0.9% over the month, partly driven by an unexpected surge in early Christmas shopping.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said a jump in restaurant bookings and a rapid turnaround in construction output were also behind the growth that took the size of the economy 0.7% above its level before March 2020.
City economists had expected an expansion of only 0.4% and warned that November was likely to prove a high point in 2020, with the figures collected by the ONS coming shortly before the Omicron variant took hold, exacerbating worker shortages as thousands were off sick, and forcing the government to introduce plan B restrictions. It followed growth of 0.2% in October.
The continuing increase in health services as a proportion of economic activity was another factor supporting the rise in GDP, the ONS said.
Against a backdrop of rising inflation and the threat of further interest rates by the Bank of England, business groups warned the economy remained weak.
Suren Thiru, the head of economics at the British Chambers of Commerce, said:
“Stronger growth in November is likely to be followed by a modest fall in output in December and January, as consumer caution to socialise and spend, and mounting staff absences sparked by Omicron and plan B limit activity.
“While the UK economy should rebound once plan B measures are lifted, surging inflation and persistent supply chain disruption may mean that the UK’s economic growth prospects remain under pressure for much of 2022.”