Economy shrinks more than expected
The UK's economy shrank by more than previously thought in the final quarter of 2011, official figures reveal.
Gross domestic product (GDP) - a broad measure for the total economy - declined by 0.3%, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said, downwardly revised from previous estimates of 0.2%.
The ONS said there had been a slight decline in the powerhouse services sector, which was initially thought to have been flat, while household spending was also worse than previously thought.
The third and final estimate from the ONS means the UK economy entered 2012 in a worse position than previously thought.
However, most economists think the UK will avoid another recession - defined as two quarters of back-to-back contraction - by returning to growth in the first quarter of 2012 after stronger industry data in recent months.
The economy is still expected to remain sluggish and lacklustre for the first half of the year at least, as households continue to be squeezed by rising unemployment and as pay fails to keep pace with the rising cost of living.
The UK's overall growth for 2011 as a whole was revised down to just 0.7%, having previously been thought to be 0.8%, and way below long-term growth trends.
The Government's independent watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility, estimates growth of just 0.8% for 2012.
Shadow chancellor Ed Balls said: "What the figures show is not only did the economy shrink at the end of last year but there's been no growth at all since the spending review 18 months ago. That's why unemployment is rising, that's why the Government is now borrowing £150 billion more than they planned.
"What it shows is George Osborne's plan is not working. We need action to get the economy moving, to get jobs being created - it's the only way to get the deficit down. Last week's Budget was not only unfair, there is a gaping hole where there should be an economic plan."