Britain’s economy has surpassed its pre-pandemic level after recording strong growth in November, official data showed on Friday.

“Gross domestic product is estimated to have grown by 0.9 per cent in November 2021 and is above its pre-coronavirus pandemic level for the first time,” the Office for National Statistics said in a statement. The UK economy is 0.7 per cent above its level in February 2020, the ONS added.

“It’s amazing to see the size of the economy back to pre-pandemic levels in November – a testament to the grit and determination of the British people,” said finance minister Rishi Sunak.  

Seen as a potential successor to embattled Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Sunak urged Britons to get their booster jab to help safeguard the economic recovery. “We all have a vital part to play to protect lives and jobs, and I urge everyone to do theirs by getting boosted as soon as you can,” he said.

While the UK economy grew strongly in November compared with output of only 0.2 per cent in October, this was before the Omicron variant took hold. “GDP almost certainly dropped in December, as households hunkered down in response to the Omicron variant,” noted Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

While the UK economy grew strongly in November compared with output of only 0.2% in October, this was before the Omicron variant took hold

PM in trouble

The British Retail Consortium last week warned that restrictions imposed in the wake of Omicron “wiped out” much of a recent recovery enjoyed by UK bricks-and-mortar stores.

UK supermarkets managed to avoid major fallout, however, as Omicron boosted demand for at-home celebrations.Supermarket Tesco, Britain’s biggest retailer, on Thursday lifted its annual profit forecast after posting a 3.2 per cent sales increase over the festive period.

Johnson was meanwhile fighting for his political future on Friday as outrage mounted after his belated apology for attending a party during lockdown and as a fresh report emerged of other raucous gatherings at his office.

It comes as the UK economy’s outlook is “clouded by... sickness absence, supply chain disruption and a cost of living crunch for households”, said Alpesh Paleja, lead economist at the CBI, Britain’s main business lobby group.

Economies are battling against decades-high inflation that is forcing central banks to hike interest rates, including the Bank of England, which last month raised its key borrowing cost to 0.25 per cent. The rate was increased from a record-low level of 0.1 per cent.

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