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The UK economy is contracting at a faster rate than during the 2008 financial crisis, according to a closely watched survey.

The Markit/IHS Purchasing Managers’ Index for the services industry registered a score of 37.1 for March, the lowest figure since the survey began in 1998 and compares with a low of 38.1 during the financial crisis over a decade ago. Any figure below 50 indicates contraction.

Based on previous data and patterns, the survey suggests that the UK economy will contract by 1.5-2% during the first quarter of 2020.

However, the survey was conducted between 12 and 20 March, before the government introduced stricter social distancing and economic measures. It even came before the public were advised not to visit pubs and restaurants, suggesting the true picture following the survey period could be much worse.

Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit, said: “This decline will likely be the tip of the iceberg and dwarfed by what we will see in the second quarter.

“The colossal drop in the composite PMI – more than three times bigger than its previous record decline – signals clearly that the economy is hurtling towards a deep recession,” said Samuel Tombs of Pantheon.

“We judge that the drop in GDP in Q2 will be at least twice as big as currently signalled by Markit’s PMI, though at this stage the duration of emergency measures to keep people in their homes is anyone’s guess.”

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