GDP fell by 0.2% in December 2021 to equal its pre-pandemic level in February 2020, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The contraction follows a revised growth of 0.6% in November 2021 when the economy surpassed the pre-coronavirus economy for the first time.

The services and construction sectors are 0.5% and 0.3% larger than in February 2020 respectively, while production remains 2.6% below.

Wholesale and retail trade fell by 3.2% in December 2021 and was the main contributor to the 0.5% fall in services output during the month.

Darren Morgan, director of economic statistics at the ONS, said:

"Despite December's setback, GDP grew robustly across the fourth quarter as a whole.

"Overall, GDP in December was in line with its level in February 2020, while in the fourth quarter as a whole, it was slightly below that of Q4 2019."

Julian Jessop, economics fellow at free market think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs, said:

"The monthly fall of 0.2 per cent in December was also smaller than feared. Activity might have dipped further in January, but the UK economy at least began 2022 in better shape than many had expected."

Amid rising inflation and a hike in interest rates, the Bank of England recently cut its annual growth forecast for 2022 from 5% to 3.75%.

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