Economy slowdown worse than expected

The UK economy endured a worse-than-expected slowdown in the first three months of the year as the services sector slackened and inflation hit retailers.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 0.3 per cent in its initial estimate for the first quarter of 2017, down from 0.7 per cent in the fourth quarter of last year.

Economists had been expecting GDP growth to slow as consumers tightened their belts in the face of rising inflation, but they had pencilled in a higher growth figure of 0.4 per cent.

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The ONS said: “There were falls in several important consumer-focused industries, such as retail sales and accommodation; this was due in part to prices increasing more than spending.”

Britain’s powerhouse services sector, which accounts for 78 per cent of the UK economy, put downward pressure on overall growth.

It expanded by 0.3 per cent between January and March this year, slowing from 0.8 per cent between October and December of 2016.