UK economy barely grows as nation faces new restrictions

LONDON (AP) — The United Kingdom’s economy barely grew in October as construction activity slowed due to shortages of building materials and rising prices caused by shipping bottlenecks around the world.

The Office for National Statistics said Friday that gross domestic product increased by 0.1% from the previous month, below the forecast of 0.4% from a survey of economists. The U.K. economy remains 0.5% smaller than it was before the COVID-19 pandemic, the office said.

Construction output fell 1.8% in October, the biggest drop since April 2020, the agency said. Manufacturing output was flat.

Growth remained positive primarily because of an increase in demand for face-to-face medical appointments as COVID-19 restrictions eased and the government pressured doctors to see more patients in person. That drove a 0.4% increase in output from service industries, the statistics office said.

The data comes as the economy braces for renewed restrictions to slow the spread of the new omicron variant of the coronavirus. The government has called for people to again work from home and mandated COVID-19 passes for entrance into nightclubs and large events.

“Weak growth in October and the more recent emergence of omicron mean hopes that either the health or economic pain of this crisis would be all over by Christmas have been dashed,” said James Smith, research director of the Resolution Foundation.

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