Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a measure of the total value of goods and services produced in the domestic economy. It gives us an idea about whether national output is growing or falling and by how much. A recession represents a period of 2 consecutive quarters where economic growth is negative. Following the quarters of declining growth, the UK economy slowly began to pick up, but in the final quarter of 2010, economic growth once again turned negative. Data first showed a decline of 0.5%, which was then revised down to 0.6%. However, the most recent data from the ONS has put the decline in economic growth back to just 0.5% and the snow we experienced is supposedly to blame. Still a decline, but not as much as previously thought.
What does this mean for the economy? It might be better than previously thought, but it does little to change the economic outlook for the economy. Furthermore, the UK’s position remains relatively weak compared to other nations. As Chris Williamson from Markit said:
“The decline [in growth] overstates the weakness in the economy, reflecting the bad weather at the end of last year, but is nevertheless still a dire reading compared to the UK’s peers.”
The UK also saw a declining trade balance in the final quarter of 2010 to £27bn, showing that the UK was importing more than it was exporting. This was the second biggest deficit since the second quarter of 2009. Whilst the data for growth is a little better, the key for the UK economy will be what happens in Q1 of 2011, especially given that inflation is so far above the target. In order to get inflation back to its 2% target, interest rates need to rise, but this may put the economic recovery in jeopardy. The key is likely to be confidence. If confidence returns to the economy, aggregate demand may begin to rise and put the economy back on track to achieve its 1.5% forecast rate of growth.
UK GDP less bad than forecast at end-2010, Q1 key Reuters (29/3/11)
UK GDP figures show smaller fall BBC News (29/3/11)
UK GDP shrinks by less than expected: reaction Telegraph (29/3/11)
UK growth figures: what the economists say Guardian (29/3/11)
Disposable income falls by 0.8% The Press Association (29/3/11)
British economy shrank 0.5% in fourth quarter Associated Press (29/3/11)
UK GDP figures revised higher The Economy News (29/3/11)
- What is GDP? Is it a good measure of the standard of living in a country?
- To what extent does the revised figure change the economic outlook for the UK economy?
- How do you think the Monetary Policy Committee will be affected in their decision on changing interest rates, given this new GDP data?
- What factors are worsening the UK’s relative to other countries who also suffered from the recession?
- How were financial and currency markets affected by the revised GDP data? Was it expected?