The UK economy shrank by a record 9.9% last year as coronavirus restrictions hit output, official figures show.
The contraction in 2020 “was more than twice as much as the previous largest annual fall on record”, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
However, the economy looks set to avoid a double-dip recession after growth picked up at the end of the year.
In December, the economy grew by 1.2%, after shrinking by 2.3% in November, as some restrictions eased.
Hospitality, car sales and hairdressers recovered some lost ground, the ONS said.
The growth meant that in the October-to-December quarter the economy expanded by 1%. As a result, the UK is expected to avoid what could have been its first double-dip recession since the 1970s.
A double-dip is when the economy briefly recovers from recession, only to quickly sink back. A recession is generally defined as two consecutive quarters where the economy contracts.
ONS deputy national statistician Jonathan Athow said: “An increase in Covid-19 testing and tracing also boosted output. The economy continued to grow in the fourth quarter as a whole, despite the additional [lockdown] restrictions in November.”
GDP was first measured in the aftermath of the Second World War, and the measure has never previously dropped by more than 4.1% in a year. However, the Bank of England models GDP going back centuries, and the 2020 contraction could be the worse since 1709.
Suren Thiru, the head of economics at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “Despite avoiding a double-dip recession, with output still well below pre-pandemic levels amid confirmation that 2020 was a historically bleak year for the UK economy, there is little to cheer in the latest data.”
All four economic sectors tracked by the ONS saw a drop in output, with the highest fall coming in th