UK economy begins tepid recovery in May after record slump

Britain’s economy took a first step on the long road to recovery from the Covid-19 crisis in May, as activity began to pick up after lockdown restrictions began to ease.

Gross domestic product rose by 1.8 per cent in May after slumping by a record 20.3 per cent in April, Britain’s first full month of lockdown, the Office for National Statistics said. This was a smaller rise than the average 5.5 per cent increase forecast in a Reuters poll of economists.

Over the three months to May, the economy shrank by 19.1 per cent and compared with a year ago it is 24.0 per cent smaller.

“The pick-up in output in May is more likely to reflect the partial release of pent-up demand as restrictions began to loosen, rather than evidence of a genuine recovery,” said Suren Thiru, head of economics at the British Chambers of Commerce.

The weak rebound was driven by just 0.9 per cent growth in Britain’s large services sector, with weakness in professional services, commercial property and computer programming.