British household spending on cards rises to highest since Christmas

Data from Office for National Statistics shows 88% increase in spending on credit and debit cards

A person using a card to pay in a shop. Getty Images
A person using a card to pay in a shop. Getty Images

British household spending on credit and debit cards rose to 88 per cent of its pre-pandemic average in the week ending April 1, its highest since the week before Christmas.

The Office for National Statistics said the figures were not seasonally adjusted and some of the increase was driven by household bills due at the end of the month and food shopping.

But they add to signs that the economy is starting to pick up as coronavirus restrictions begin to ease after the more than half of Britain's adult population was vaccinated.

Building activity last month recorded its biggest jump since 2014, as businesses restarted delayed projects in anticipation of shops, pubs and restaurants reopening next week.

Recruiters reported the biggest rise in hiring of permanent staff in six years.

This week, the International Monetary Fund revised its growth forecast for Britain in 2021 to 5.3 per cent.

But it does not see the UK's economy recovering to its pre-pandemic level until next year, which is much slower than in the US and Japan.

Barclaycard said on Wednesday that spending at golf courses jumped five-fold last week after they reopened.

The Bank of England expects rapid initial growth but says there could be a long overhang of unemployment and underemployment after government support is withdrawn.

The statistics office said companies reported that 19 per cent of businesses' staff were on furlough in mid-March.

This is equal to six million people and well above levels of 11 per cent in early December, before Covid-19 restrictions were tightened.

About 75.1 per cent of businesses replying to a statistics office survey said they were trading as of April 4 up 1.3 per cent from the previous two-week period, while 22.2 per cent said they were temporarily closed.

Updated: April 9, 2021 12:29 AM

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