There was a big focus on data for the UK last week, with unemployment and growth numbers being published. The UK unemployment rate for June was reported at 3.9%. This may prove to be artificially low, as UK employment is being supported by the furlough scheme. The coming months will be more insightful for the UK’s unemployment scenario, as the furlough scheme is gradually being phased out.
The UK growth data for the second quarter of 2020 saw GDP drop by -20.4% quarter-on-quarter. This has the dubious honour of breaking the previous record of -2.7% for the first quarter of 1974. It also means the UK is now officially in a recession with two consecutive negative quarters.
All of this was known and actually slightly better than anticipated; the Bank of England had forecast a deterioration of 25%. The main driver of the decline was the Service sector – with Accommodation and Food Services the hardest hit dropping an astonishing -87% quarter-on-quarter. It is little wonder then that the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme was introduced this month.
Growth is expected to rebound for the third quarter though, but it will be some time before it returns to levels we saw at the end of 2019; the Bank of England’s forecast is not until the end of 2021. Even with a positive outlook for the next three months, there are still considerable risks to the recovery for the UK; a widespread second wave of the virus, consumer sentiment changing to a more cautious approach and the unwinding of the furlough scheme all pose potential threats.
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All the data contained in the communication is believed to be reliable but may be inaccurate or incomplete. Unless otherwise specified all information is produced as of 17th August 2020.