LONDON — The British economy exceeded its pre-pandemic size in November 2021, figures published Friday by the Office for National Statistics show.
Gross domestic product increased by 0.9 percent in November and stood at 0.7 percent above the previous peak of February 2020.
“The economy grew strongly in the month before Omicron struck with architects, retailers, couriers and accountants having a bumper month,” said ONS chief economist Grant Fitzner, adding that construction also ticked up thanks to wider availability of raw material.
The growth spurt took financial markets by surprise and suggests the country was in decent shape when the Omicron wave hit, through which it stayed open with the exception of a government recommendation to work from home where possible. The pound sterling gained value against the U.S. dollar and euro in trading immediately after the news.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak praised the data as “amazing to see” and “a testament to the grit and determination of the British people.” It comes after concerns had been raised that October’s week-long fuel crisis and wider labor unavailability would hurt activity.
Capital Economics, a consultancy, attributed the growth to an “easing of shortages” that boosted manufacturing and construction as well as a rise in professional activities more generally. However, data is likely to show that the economy declined in December and January, while rebounding from February, due to “recent signs that the Omicron wave is starting to subside,” the experts said in a report.
Meanwhile, the cost of credit is likely to be jacked up again to stem inflation, Dutch bank ING said in its own analysis. “For the Bank of England, this suggests the chances of a February rate hike are rising.”
This article has been updated.