The UK economy grew at the fastest pace since July 2020 as government restrictions affecting economic activity continued to ease in April, data from the Office for Statistics showed on Friday.

Gross domestic product rose 2.3 percent month-on-month in April, faster than the 2.1 percent expansion seen in March. The rate was forecast to improve to 2.2 percent.

The service sector grew 3.4 percent in April, with consumer-facing services re-opening in line with the easing of coronavirus restrictions and more pupils returning to onsite lessons.

Meanwhile, output in the production sector dropped 1.3 percent in April, marking the first fall since January 2021 as three of the four sectors contracted. The manufacturing sector shrank slightly by 0.3 percent.

At the same time, mining and quarrying output contracted sharply by 15.0 percent in April because of planned temporary closures for maintenance of oil field production sites.

The construction sector output declined 2 percent in April following a strong March. This was the first fall in construction since December 2020, when it fell by 2.2 percent.

April’s GDP remained 3.7 percent below the pre-pandemic levels seen in February 2020. Nonetheless, it is now 1.2 percent above its initial recovery peak in October 2020.

Overall, GDP expanded 1.5 percent in the three months to April, mainly because of services output, boosted by strong retail sales over the three months.

Overall, the economic recovery stepped up another gear in April and GDP is on track to return to its February level before the end of the year, Thomas Pugh, an economist at Capital Economics, said. If anything, the economy could regain its pre-crisis level even sooner.

Another report from the ONS showed that the visible trade gap narrowed to GBP 10.95 billion in April from GBP 11.7 billion in March and the surplus on services increased to GBP 10 billion from GBP 9.74 billion.

As a result, the total trade deficit declined to GBP 935 million from GBP 1.96 billion in March.

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