cars

A “dramatic” fall in car production and an easing of stockpiling by manufacturers meant the economy shrank in April, official figures show.

The economy contracted 0.4% from the month before, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The contraction meant growth for the three months to April slowed to 0.3%.

Factory shutdowns designed to cope with disruption from a March Brexit slashed UK car production in April by nearly half, the industry said last month.

ONS statistician Rob Kent-Smith said: “Growth showed some weakening across the latest three months, with the economy shrinking in the month of April mainly due to a dramatic fall in car production, with uncertainty ahead of the UK’s original EU departure date leading to planned shutdowns.

“There was also widespread weakness across manufacturing in April, as the boost from the early completion of orders ahead of the UK’s original EU departure date has faded.”

The contraction in April was far sharper than economists had expected.

Ruth Gregory, senior UK economist at Capital Economics, said: “Overall, the clear message is that underlying growth is pretty sluggish.

“With the Brexit paralysis and a slowing global economy taking its toll, we doubt GDP will grow by much more than 1.5% or so in 2019 as a whole and expect interest rates to remain on hold until the middle of next year.”

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