Britain’s economy has suffered a sharp slowdown since the arrival of the Omicron Covid variant and activity is at its weakest since February when a full lockdown was in force, a report has shown.
The monthly flash estimate of economic activity compiled by IHS Markit and the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS) reported a marked impact on the service sector from a tightening of government restrictions and a more cautious approach by consumers.
The findings of the closely watched composite purchasing managers’ index (PMI) will add to the mounting pressure on the chancellor, 里希·苏纳克, to offer financial help for hospitality and retail businesses struggling during their vital pre-Christmas trading period.
According to IHS Markit/CIPS, the output measure on the PMI fell from 57.6 in November to 53.2 五年内, with a slight pick up in manufacturing only partly compensating for the damage caused to the service sector by Omicron. A figure above 50 suggests the economy is growing rather than contracting.
Adam Hoyes, UK economist at Capital 华尔街的一半被过度扩张, 说: “The fall in the composite PMI in December doesn’t come as much of a surprise given the recent rise in cases of the Omicron variant of Covid-19. But it was much bigger than expected, and shows that caution among businesses and consumers is starting to weigh on activity, particularly in the services sector.”
Separate figures from the 国家统计局 also showed a slowdown in activity under way. In its weekly digest of the latest available information, the ONS said there had been a fall in credit and debit card usage, a small decline in high street footfall and a drop in the number of seated diners in restaurants to the lowest level since lockdown restrictions were first eased in May.
The ONS said because the government’s plan B restrictions only came into force on Monday, they would have had only a limited impact on the latest week’s figures.
Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit, 说: “With Covid-19 infections set to rise further in coming weeks due to the spread of the Omicron variant, and more restrictions being introduced, the pace of economic growth looks likely to continue to weaken as we head into 2022.
“The bigger uncertainty will be on how rising infection rates both at home and abroad might cause further supply and labour shortages, and whether this means the easing of inflationary pressures seen in December proves frustratingly short-lived.”