Coronavirus: Services sector sees its steepest downturn since 1996

04 Avril, 2020, 05:39 | Auteur: Auguste Feret
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Factory activity in the country grew at its slowest pace in four months as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic weighed on sentiment, clouding the business confidence outlook, a survey showed on Thursday.

The composite PMI index covering both the services and manufacturing sectors slumped to 28.9 in March from 52.0 in February, lower than the 30.2 initially reported. Its index sank to 34.5 from February's 53.2, and was also weaker than the March flash reading of 35.7. The latest survey data were collected between 12 and 27 March.

Only a fool would have been surprised by the entirely predictable collapse in IHS Markit's purchasing manager index survey, which all but confirms the United Kingdom is on course for its first recession since 2009.

Tim Moore, economics director at IHS Markit, said job losses had been mitigated by firms' use of a government scheme to temporarily put staff on leave, rather than fire them.

Employment fell at the fastest rate since January 2016 as firms shed staff. A reading above 50 indicates an expansion in activity, while a reading below 50 suggests a contraction.

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The services sector - which covers a range of businesses from law firms and accountants to travel agents and restaurants - represents 80% of United Kingdom economic output.

Britain's government has said it will pay 80 per cent of the wages of workers who are furloughed by companies.

Reductions in activity were broad-based across the sector, with only the technology services subcategory recording pockets of continued business expansion, the survey found.

Economists expect Britain's GDP to plunge by 10% in the second financial quarter but there is hope that the economy will recover quickly once the coronavirus outbreak begins to fade.

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