How does the UK’s GDP growth compare with other major economies?

23 May 2024
What was claimed

The UK economy is growing faster than almost any other major country, including the United States.

Our verdict

This is true when looking at the latest quarterly GDP growth for G7 countries. But the UK’s annual growth last year was among the worst in the G7, and the UK has seen comparatively slower growth since the pandemic than most other G7 countries, including the US.

“The economy is growing faster than almost any other major country, including the United States.”

During an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today [2:12:00] programme the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak claimed that “the economy is growing faster than almost any other major country including the United States”.

This is correct based on one measure—the most recent figures for quarter-on-quarter GDP growth among G7 nations—but other, longer-term measures show a different picture.

GDP refers to Gross Domestic Product, which measures the value of goods and services produced in a country. GDP growth is a key measure of the strength of a country’s economy.

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What do the most recent figures show?

Figures measuring quarterly GDP growth show that during the first quarter of 2024, the UK saw the joint-highest quarter-on-quarter growth in the G7 (a group of major economies made up of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US).

The UK’s GDP grew by 0.6% over this period, as did Canada’s. By comparison, US GDP grew by 0.4%, while France and Germany’s GDP both grew by 0.2%.

It’s worth noting that GDP figures are often revised. These figures are correct as of 23 May 2024, but may be subject to change at a later date.

UK GDP has grown more slowly in recent years

When looking over a longer period, the UK’s growth does not compare so well with other G7 countries.

Office for National Statistics figures show that in 2023 the UK saw GDP growth of 0.1% compared to the previous year, which is the second lowest rate behind Germany.

The UK economy has also recovered more slowly following the Covid-19 pandemic than most other G7 countries (though the House of Commons Library notes that this data is “not 100% comparable” due to differences in how output in the education and health sectors was calculated in the UK).

UK GDP growth in the first quarter of 2024 compared to the fourth quarter of 2019 (the last full period before the pandemic), was 1.7%—the second lowest in the G7 over this period, behind Germany.

By comparison, the US economy—to which Mr Sunak compared the UK’s growth in his interview this morning—has grown by 8.7% over the same period, and saw annual growth of 2.6% in 2023.

Statistics on their own have limitations. The way they are presented is a crucial part of how they are interpreted and understood by the public. It’s important that politicians use statistics and data transparently and responsibly, with all relevant context and caveats.

We’ve contacted the Prime Minister for comment and will update this article if we receive a response.

Image courtesy of Alev Takil

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