UK economic growth slows despite restaurant boost

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The UK economy continued its recovery in August, growing by 2.1%, as the Eat Out to Help Out scheme boosted restaurants.

But the figure was below expectations and the economy is still 9.2% smaller than before the pandemic struck.

It marked the fourth consecutive month of expansion following the slump induced by the coronavirus lockdown.

However, growth in August was slower than the expansion seen in both June and July.

In June, the economy grew by 8.7% and in July, by 6.6%. Analysts said the coming months were likely to see growth slackening further because of new Covid restrictions, the end of the furlough scheme in October and concern over a no-deal Brexit.

“We have been clear that we stand ready to do more as necessary,” a Treasury spokesperson said. “Some firms will be affected by coronavirus for longer than others, and we will continue to seek to support these firms appropriately.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to announce further coronavirus support measures later on Friday, including an extension to the Job Support Scheme for business affected by local lockdowns.

The economy’s bounce back from the pandemic shutdowns slowed in August, despite the boost from Eat Out to Help Out at a time when there were few social restrictions.

The official technical recession has certainly ended, and that will be confirmed next month. But a lower than expected figure for growth in the economy in August raises fears about the recovery petering out, and even going into reverse, in the current final quarter of the year.

The figures bolster the argument of those business groups campaigning for further support, particularly as social restrictions are strengthening rather than weakening. The first stage of that could come from Chancellor Rishi Sunak later on Friday.

The Bank of England will also react at its policy-setting meeting next month. But the latest figures show that while the first bounce in the economy occurred relatively rapidly, a full recovery is going to take much longer and not yet assured. It’s going to be a tough winter.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said important sectors of the economy, such as services and construction, were still considerably smaller than in February.

The ONS also issued figures for the three months to August, showing growth of 8% over the period as lockdown measures eased further.

Eat Out to Help Out, which ran from Monday to Wednesday during August, offered 50% off food up to the value of £10.

Discounts for more than 100 million meals were claimed through the scheme.

“The economy continued to recover in August but by less than in recent months,” said Jonathan Athow, the ONS deputy national statistician for economic statistics.

“There was strong growth in restaurants and accommodation due to the easing of lockdown rules,

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