Schools and Football Help UK Economy Rebound

The UK economy grew by 0.3% in January as school attendance picked up and Premier League football returned after the World Cup, official figures show. Gross domestic product (GDP) – a key measure of all the activity of firms, governments and individuals – bounced back from a sharp fall in December.

Growth was helped by a recovery in school attendance after more parents kept children home at the end of 2022.

The data comes ahead of the Budget next Wednesday. Chancellor Jeremy Hunt will outline the government’s plan to boost UK economic growth.

While there was a rebound in the month of January, the ONS figures also showed that the economy stagnated in the November to January period compared with the previous three months.

Reacting to the latest figures, Mr Hunt said: “In the face of severe global challenges, the UK economy has proved more resilient than many expected, but there is a long way to go.”

Tina McKenzie, policy chair at the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “While January’s figures are a glimmer of hope, the flat growth over the previous three months means we’re not out of the woods yet, with tough trading conditions persisting for many small firms.”

Darren Morgan from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which collects and publishes the data, said the UK economy had “partially bounced back” after shrinking by 0.5% in December.

“The main drivers of January’s growth were the return of children to classrooms, following unusually high absences in the run-up to Christmas, the Premier League clubs returned to a full schedule after the end of the World Cup and private health providers also had a strong month,” he said. “Postal services also partially recovered from the effects of December’s strikes.”

Economists said the rebound in January was not a surprise given a number of issues in December such as postal and rail strikes.

In education, school absences rose in December due to a spike in winter flu, Covid-19 as well as rising rates of Strep A, which can lead to scarlet fever.

The ONS said the education sector grew by 2.5% in January following a fall of 2.6% the month before. In measuring GDP, the ONS looks at areas such as teachers’ wages and how much investment has been made in schools.

Activity in arts, entertainment and recreation also grew, mainly due to football. Premier League football returned to a full schedule In January after fixtures were postponed in December for the World Cup.

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