Drop in UK growth is only short-term, claim economists
UK growth fell to a worse-than-expected 0.3% at the start of 2015, but the economy should recover over the coming quarters, economists predict.
The pace of gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the first quarter was half the 0.6% rate seen in the final quarter of 2014.
It was the weakest quarterly growth since the end of 2012. The data came nine days before the General Election as politicians vie to demonstrate their competence in running the economy.
The preliminary estimate published by the ONS showed the dominant services sector grew at its slowest pace, only 0.5% in quarter one, in almost two years.
Meanwhile, the construction sector shrank for the second quarter in a row - the first time this has happened since 2012.
Danske Bank's chief economist Angela McGowan said the UK economy is still expected to rebound over the coming quarters.
"UK workers are experiencing positive real wage growth for the first time since 2009 due to a combination of low inflation and increasing nominal wage growth," she said. "A combination of increasing employment and positive real wage growth should support private consumption going forward. And as growth is accelerating in the rest of Europe this should increase foreign demand for UK goods," Ms McGowan continued.
"Higher activity in UK export markets should more than offset the negative impact from the strength of the pound in recent months."
Dr Esmond Birnie, PwC chief economist in Northern Ireland, said the figures may show more of a wobble than the start of a serious slowdown.
And while there was no official equivalent figures to describe growth in Northern Ireland, he said: "A modest slowdown in UK growth in 2015 compared to 2014 would be consistent with PwC's forecast that output in Northern Ireland will grow by 1.7% in 2015, down from 1.8% in 2014.
"What may be of more concern is that the available official figures indicate that between 2007 and 2013, productivity in Northern Ireland fell back sharply compared to the UK average - and this at a time when UK productivity was actually flat."