The easing of lockdown restrictions in April helped the UK economy grow at its fastest rate since July 2020 as households returned to high street stores and took advantage of hairdressers reopening, according to new data.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said gross domestic product (GDP) – a measure of economic growth – was up 2.3% in April although it remains below pre-pandemic levels. In July last year the economy grew 7.3%.
It would have been higher if not for a slowdown in the construction sector compared to strong growth in March.
Non-essential retailers drove much of the growth as they welcomed customers back into stores from April 12 in England, with clothes stores seeing a boost of 69.4%.
Overall growth in the services sector was 3.4%, although it remains 4.1% below pre-pandemic levels of February 2020.
This included restaurants, bars and cafes where customers could dine and drink outdoors again, seeing a 39% rise in growth.
Households also took advantage of the ability to travel across the country again, helping caravan parks and holiday lets to grow 68.6%, whilst hairdressers and other personal services grew 63.5%.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “Today’s figures are a promising sign that our economy is beginning to recover.
“With more than a million people coming off furlough across March and April and the number of employees in work rising, it is clear that our Plan for Jobs is working.
“But I know there are people who still need our support, which is why the furlough scheme is in place until September to protect as many jobs as possible”.
The construction sector fell by 2% amid a fall in new work – 2.9% – and in repair and maintenance, down 0.6% due to a strong March.
However, the sector has enjoyed a strong pandemic overall and still remains above pre-pandemic levels by 0.3%.