“This time it’s a pandemic to blame whereas back then, it was a Great Frost, which saw ice in the North Sea, and the War of Spanish Succession … which was doing the damage,” wrote Societe Generale strategist Kit Juckes in a research note on Friday.
But there were big swings in output between October and December, largely tracking the level of restrictions imposed to contain the coronavirus.
The United States fared even better by comparison, with GDP decreasing by 3.5% from the prior year.
“Today’s figures show that the economy has experienced a serious shock as a result of the pandemic, which has been felt by countries around the world,” UK finance minister Rishi Sunak said in a statement. “While there are some positive signs of the economy’s resilience over the winter, we know that the current lockdown continues to have a significant impact on many people and businesses.”
“It seems that a double dip [recession] was merely delayed rather than avoided outright,” Sam Miley, an economist at the London-based Centre for Economics and Business Research said in a note on Friday.
Disruption to EU-UK trade following the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31 is also weighing on activity.
The survey also found that nearly 40% of British adults suffered financially as a consequence of the pandemic, with younger workers, Black people and the self-employed among the hardest hit.
“The rapid rollout of the vaccination programme across the UK means a decisive corner has been turned in the battle against Covid,” he said. “A decisive corner is about to be turned for the economy too, with enormous amounts of pent-up financial energy waiting to be released, like a coiled spring,” he added.
— Will Godley contributed to this article.