UK Economy Grows 0.8% In First Quarter
The UK's economic recovery continued in the first quarter of 2014, with the first estimate of GDP growth coming in at 0.8%.
The figure, while weaker than the 0.9% most economists had expected, meant that output was 3.1% higher than on the same period the previous year, marking the fastest annual growth since the last quarter of 2007.
However, the economy remains 0.6% smaller than at its peak in the first quarter of 2008, after the recession wiped 7.2% off total output.
News of the economy's latest performance, released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), showed growth across each major sector of the economy, though construction output was damaged by the impact of the winter storms.
The ONS said while widespread flooding appeared to have no overall effect on output it said bad weather in January and February did hit efforts to meet demand for new homes, with construction recording just 0.3% growth.
Output in the service sector - which makes up more than three quarters of UK GDP - rose by 0.9% and continued to be driven by consumer spending.
Manufacturing grew by 1.3%, its strongest quarter for nearly four years, bolstering hopes for a rebalancing in the recovery away from its reliance on consumers.
Industrial production rose 0.8% though mining and quarrying, electricity and gas production and agriculture shrank over the quarter.
The GDP figures were seized upon by the union organisation the TUC as evidence the recovery was not gaining enough momentum to sustain a raise in interest rates, which is widely expected next year.
The figures were released at the same time as statistics showing a 2.5% rise in the number of people being declared insolvent in England and Wales over the same period.
There were 24,931 individual insolvencies recorded during the three months - a period when wage increases finally caught up with inflation for the first time since the recession.
Chancellor George Osborne said: "Today's figures show that Britain is coming back - but we can't take that for granted. We have to carry on working through our long-term economic plan.
"For the first time in a decade all three main sectors of the economy - manufacturing, services and construction - have grown by at least 3% over the last year.
"The impact of the great recession is still being felt, but the foundations for a broad-based recovery are now in place.
"The biggest risk to economic security would be abandoning the plan that is laying those foundations".
Shadow chancellor Ed Balls said: "Now that growth has finally returned, the question is whether ordinary working people will properly feel the benefit and we have a balanced recovery that's built to last."
He told Sky News: "Most people are experiencing a cost of living crisis, which David Cameron and George Osborne try to deny. Its a reality for most people in our country".