Glasgow High Street lockdown

The UK economy shrank by 2.6% in November as fresh lockdowns halted much of the country's economic activity, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS said the UK's GDP was 8.5% below its pre-pandemic peak in February, while November marks the first contraction after six months of consecutive growth.

It comes as England held a month-long national lockdown, while the second half of Wales' national 'fire break' lockdown took place in the opening weeks of November. Scotland and Northern Ireland too introduced tougher restrictions in an attempt to reduce the rise of Covid-19 ahead of Christmas.

The services sector was the primary reason for the contraction, having shrunk 3.4% as pubs, restaurants hairdressers and other non-essential businesses were forced to close. It means the UK's services sector is now 9.9% smaller than at the start of the pandemic.

ONS director for economic statistics Darren Morgan said: "The economy took a hit from restrictions put in place to contain the pandemic during November, with pubs and hairdressers seeing the biggest impact.

"However, many businesses adjusted to the new working conditions during the pandemic, such as widespread use of click and collect as well as the move online.

He added: "Manufacturing and construction generally continued to operate, while schools also stayed open, meaning the impact on the economy was significantly smaller in November than during the first lockdown.

"Car manufacturing, bolstered by demand from abroad, housebuilding and infrastructure grew and are now all above their pre-pandemic levels."