Chancellor Rishi Sunak has warned of “bumps on our road to recovery” as new figures showed growth stalled even before the arrival of the Omicron variant.
GDP grew by just 0.1% in October, well short of the 0.4% expected by economists and a big slowdown on September’s 0.6% expansion, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
The data showed evidence of a summer dining-out boom petering out as well as the beleaguered construction sector struggling with supply chain delays.
Experts fear that new “Plan B” COVID restrictions could pour further cold water on the recovery – with the ONS figures suggesting GDP in October was still 0.5% short of pre-pandemic levels in February 2020.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “We’ve always acknowledged there could be bumps on our road to recovery, but the early actions we have taken, our ongoing £400bn economic support package and our vaccine programme mean we are well placed to keep our economy on track.
“We have still been recovering quicker than expected, with more employees on payrolls than ever before and redundancies remaining low.”
The ONS data pointed to a sharp fall in construction output as builders faces higher costs and delays in the supply of materials such as steel, glass, concrete and timber.
There was also a decline in restaurants after a strong summer, with a 7.5% fall in food and beverage services activities.
Growth was largely driven by a rise in face-to-face GP appointments while second-hand car sales and employment agencies at a time when new cars as well as workers in some sectors have become hard to find.
Alpesh Paleja, lead economist at the CBI, said: “Growth disappointed in October, reinforcing concerns about the resilience of the UK’s economic recovery to the Omicron variant and the impact of further restrictions.
“We need to create consistency in our approach and build confidence by reducing the oscillation between normal life and restrictions as we learn to live with the virus and its variants.”