The UK economy contracted by more than one fifth in the first full month of lockdown.

With shops and factories closing and workers being sent home due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Office for National Statistics has revealed that economic activity was down by 20.4% in April.

It is the largest drop in a single month since records began in 1997.

The fall massively outstrips the then-record 5.8% drop in March gross domestic product (GDP) that the ONS reported last month.

HeraldScotland: Source: ONSSource: ONS

It means that GDP fell by 10.4% in the three months to April and sets the UK on course for one of its worst quarters in history.

Experts had been expecting April’s GDP to contract by 18.7%, according to a consensus compiled by Pantheon Macroeconomics.

Commenting on today’s GDP figures for April, deputy national statistician for economic statistics Jonathan Athow said: “April’s fall in GDP is the biggest the UK has ever seen, more than three times larger than last month and almost ten times larger than the steepest pre-COVID-19 fall. In April the economy was around 25% smaller than in February.

“Virtually all areas of the economy were hit, with pubs, education, health and car sales all giving the biggest contributions to this historic fall.

“Manufacturing and construction also saw significant falls, with manufacture of cars and housebuilding particularly badly affected.

“The UK’s trade with the rest of the world was also badly affected by the pandemic, with large falls in both the import and export of cars, fuels, works of art and clothing.”

 

SNP Shadow Chancellor Alison Thewliss MP said: “The coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact on the economy, businesses and people’s jobs and livelihoods. While the support brought forward by the Treasury so far has been welcome, there is so much more that needs to be done if we are to work towards a strong economic recovery.

“The ONS statistics reveal a record slump of 20.4% in GDP in April due to lockdown measures and the health crisis - worse than during the financial crash. This must serve as a wake-up call for the UK government to immediately extend and strengthen support schemes, not wind them down.

“Businesses are struggling to survive, thousands of jobs are on the line, and households are taking a severe hit as people see a drop in income or job losses through no fault of their own.

“The UK government should be alleviating that financial burden, rather than adding to it at this critical stage.

“With the OECD also highlighting this week that the UK will suffer the worst economic impact of any of the developed countries, it’s clear that without immediate Treasury intervention to deliver financial relief and tailored support, our diverse sectors and industries - such as manufacturing and agri - face a battle to survive.

“The SNP will continue to pressure the UK government over its coronavirus economic plan - including calling for an extension for as long as is necessary to its Job Retention Scheme and support for the self-employed for the devolved nations.”