Double-dip recession could be wiped

BuildingBritain's double-dip recession could be wiped from the records when the latest official figures on the economy are released.

Economists believe the second successive recession at the end of 2011 and first half of 2012 may be erased when the Office for National Statistics (ONS) publishes its third and final figures for the first quarter of 2013, including revisions to previous data.

Until now, Britain is believed to have fallen into recession for a nine-month period to the middle of 2012 following on from the deep recession of 2008 to 2009. A recession is technically classed as two consecutive quarters of negative growth.

But a stronger-than-reported performance from the UK's construction sector during the first quarter of 2012 has raised doubts that the second dip into recession ever actually happened.

Gross domestic product (GDP) dropped by a marginal 0.1% in the last quarter of 2011, followed by the same figure for the start of 2012, although in the second quarter it was a fall of 0.4% as output was hit by an extra holiday for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

Data from the ONS in May showed that the construction sector did not fare quite as badly in the first quarter of 2012 as previously believed.

Instead of output declining by 5.4%, it fell by 5%, according to the figures, which could be enough to revise overall GDP to 0% in the first quarter of 2012, interrupting the run of three consecutive declines and therefore revising away the double dip.

But IHS Global Insight chief UK and European economist Howard Archer said: "In reality, it makes little difference whether the economy grew marginally, contracted marginally or was flat over a quarter or a couple of quarters. It is the overall picture that is important."

The ONS figures are also expected to confirm that the UK economy grew by 0.3% in the first three months of the year, which brought Britain back from the brink of a further recession following a contraction of 0.3% at the end of 2012. The economy is expected to expand by around 0.5% in the second quarter amid growing signs of economic optimism.

Chancellor George Osborne last week said the British economy is "healing" at his annual Mansion House speech in the City of London. He said: "We are moving from rescue to recovery. But while Britain has left intensive care, we still need to secure the recovery."

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