Hit by the coronavirus pandemic, British gross domestic product (GDP) fell by 5.8 percent in March, the biggest one-month contraction since records began more than 20 years ago.
Overall, the U.K. economy shrank by 2% in the first quarter of this year, according to figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Wednesday, with the most significant losses incurred in March.
“In terms of scale, in terms of speed, this is really, really unprecedented,” Jonathan Athow, director general for economic statistics at the ONS, told the BBC’s Today program Wednesday morning. The ONS started recording monthly figures in 1997.
“With the arrival of the pandemic nearly every aspect of the economy was hit in March,” Athow said.
The accommodation and food services sector was hardest hit, down 9.5 percent over the first quarter of 2020 after hotels and restaurants were shuttered in response to the spread of the virus. Prime Minister Boris Johnson requested a voluntary end to “non-essential” contact with others on March 16, followed by mandatory lockdown measures on March 23.
Very few industries saw growth over the quarter, though “there were some that did including IT support and the manufacture of pharmaceuticals, soaps and cleaning products,” Athow said.
“The pandemic also hit trade globally, with U.K. imports and exports falling over the last couple of months, including a notable drop in imports from China,” he added.