Date: 12/08/2020
Author: Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce
Company: Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

Chris Fletcher, Policy, Campaigns and Communications Director at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, looks at the Government's latest economic data. 

Following the release of the government’s latest figures this morning the UK is now officially in a recession.

The confirmation today following the release of the Quarter 2 figures (April – June) show that for the second successive quarter, growth was negative thereby we are in a double dip recession. Or, 6 weeks after the recording period ended, maybe that should be we were in recession?

Not wanting to make light of the very serious economic issues we are facing right now but I am as  bemused by the reaction to this today as I was over a decade ago when we were last in a recession. All of a sudden, it’s as if overnight things have suddenly changed.

They haven’t.

The survey work we do at the Chamber – the Recovery Tracker and QES – gives us virtually real time data on what the local economy is doing and has been doing through direct input from businesses on the ground here in GM. We knew the second quarter was going to be dire – a continuation of the drop off a cliff in April - so today’s news has probably come as no surprise, the scale of decline maybe, but not the end result.

It probably wouldn’t have surprised too many business owners out there either. If it looks like a recession and feels like a recession then it probably is, you don’t need official confirmation to know that.

What’s vital now is that we don’t use old data to stop what we have been seeing around some very early signs of growth from the results of the last few surveys we have run. Things are tough, don’t get me wrong, but there are signs out there of a recovery beginning to take shape. It’s vital we don’t hit the negativity button and spiral down.

You would never dream of driving somewhere by just using the rear view mirror. In the same way you can’t plan an effective economic strategy by just using, at best, month old data. The biggest challenges of all may yet lie ahead, if not from Covid then from the ending of the transition period in December, and it’s those that we should really be keeping an eye on. Yes, learn from the past but don’t let it dictate the future.

Next week our Q3 Quarterly Economic Survey opens – please fill it in. Now more than ever the genuine experience of business is needed – not to gloss over bad news but to tell a realistic and honest story of what current business conditions are like. That’s the data I’m interested in and that’s the data I trust more than any other.