Covid-19: GDP recovers slightly in May, boosted by retail

The UK economy has shown small signs of recovery from the Covid-19 crisis, with GDP growing by 1.8% in May following the dramatic 20.4% fall recorded in April, the biggest monthly decline since records began.

New figures published today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that retail was a major contributor to the UK’s economic growth in May, growing 12% compared with April.

This was primarily due to a rise in online sales of nearly 20% year-on-year, pushing eCommerce to account for a record 33.4% of total retail sales. Non-essential stores remained closed in May as per the UK government’s lockdown restrictions.

However, the figures continue to make grim reading, with GDP plunging by a massive 19.1% in the three months to May 2020.

Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician for economic statistics at the ONS said: "Manufacturing and house building showed signs of recovery as some businesses saw staff return to work. Despite this, the economy was still a quarter smaller in May than in February, before the full effects of the pandemic struck.

“In the important services sector, we saw some pickup in retail, which saw record online sales. However, with lockdown restrictions remaining in place, many other services remained in the doldrums, with a number of areas seeing further declines."

It is hoped that the reopening of non-essential stores in mid-June and pubs and restaurants from the start of July will enable the UK economy to grow at a much faster rate over the coming months.

The economic damage of the Covid-19 lockdown has become very apparent in recent weeks, with the announcement of a number of job losses in the retail sector, including at John Lewis and Boots.

Last week, the UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a package of economic measures that aim to boost employment, particularly amongst young people, over the coming months.

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