UK economy jumps 0.5% in May

The improvement was driven by a rebound in construction, manufacturing and services

The UK's Office for National Statistics said British construction had fared well 'with housebuilding and office refurbishment driving growth'. Photo: Bloomberg
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The UK economy grew by 0.5 per cent in May, beating expectations of no growth, driven by hauliers and pent-up demand for travel services.

It rebounded from a 0.2 per cent drop in April, according to official figures, slightly dampening fears of a slowdown despite surging inflation and rising interest rates.

The country's Office for National Statistics said the rise in gross domestic product came after a bounceback across all three main sectors of the economy — services, manufacturing and construction.

The statistics body also revised GDP data up for April, to a fall of 0.2 per cent from a drop of 0.3 per cent in its previous estimation.

A Reuters poll of economists had pointed to zero growth in May from April.

The Bank of England has predicted that GDP will contract in the April-June period. Although it is expected to return to growth in the third quarter, many analysts point to the risk of the economy going into a recession later this year.

The Bank has hiked interest rates five times since December in a bid to tame runaway inflation, which has sparked a cost-of-living crisis.

Darren Morgan, director for economic statistics at the ONS, said: “The economy rebounded in May with growth across all main sectors.

“Health was the biggest driver, with many more people seeing GPs, despite test and trace, and the vaccination programmes winding down.

“Road hauliers also had a busy month while travel agencies fared well with pent-up demand for summer holidays.

“There was widespread growth across manufacturing after several tough months while construction also fared well with house building and office refurbishment driving growth.”

Rory Macqueen, Principal Economist at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, NIESR, said: "If April activity was more encouraging than the headline figure suggested – with strong consumer-facing services dragged down by the reduction in vaccinations – the opposite may be true in May. Headline growth of 0.5 per cent owed much to rising GP visits, while sectors like hospitality, retail and the arts all contracted, suggesting that rising prices may have eaten into discretionary household consumption. More encouragingly, manufacturing had its joint strongest month since November 2020, and construction recorded a seventh consecutive month of expansion. With plenty of room for revisions, it looks like touch and go as to whether or not the UK economy entered recession in the second quarter"

Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi, who is standing for the leadership of the ruling Conservative Party and hopes to be the next prime minister, said: “It’s always great to see the economy growing but I’m not complacent.

“I know people are concerned, so we are continuing to support families and economic growth.

“We’re working alongside the Bank of England to bear down on inflation and I am confident we can create a stronger economy for everyone across the UK.”

Updated: July 13, 2022, 9:43 AM