OECD forecasts modest growth for UK economy

The OECD released its latest Economic Outlook today, setting out its forecasts for developments in its member countries. It is supportive of the UK government’s fiscal tightening, describing it as “substantial but necessary”, but warns that it will, when combined with weak real income growth, mean moderate output growth over the next two years.

The OECD released its latest Economic Outlook today, setting out its forecasts for developments in its member countries. It is supportive of the UK government’s fiscal tightening, describing it as “substantial but necessary”, but warns that it will, when combined with weak real income growth, mean moderate output growth over the next two years.

After real GDP growth of 1.8 per cent in 2010, it forecasts 1.7 per cent growth in 2011 and 2.0 per cent growth in 2012. This would represent a disappointing pace of recovery from the deepest recession in the UK since the 1930s.

The UK’s long-run average growth rate is 2.5 per cent and above-trend growth would normally be expected in the early years of a recovery. As a result of the modest pace of growth, the OECD only expects unemployment to fall from 7.9 per cent this year to 7.6 per cent in 2012.


Like the Office for Budget Responsibility, the OECD believes that UK growth over the next two years will benefit from a strong trade performance. Net exports (the contribution of exports less imports to growth) are forecast to add 0.4 per cent to growth in 2011 and 0.5 per cent in 2012. If this happens, it will be a remarkable (though not unprecedented) turnaround from this year, when net exports are likely to have subtracted 1.0 per cent from growth.

One obvious risk is that this does not happen, causing growth to undershoot the OECD’s forecasts, in which case unemployment is unlikely to fall. The UK cannot look to strong demand overseas to boost its recovery. Although the OECD area as a whole is expected to grow by 2.3 per cent in 2011 and 2.8 per cent in 2012, the euro area – by far the UK’s most important export market – is forecast to grow in line with the UK economy.

For those who like league tables, the OECD’s forecasts put the UK fourth out of the G7 in terms of the growth outlook. Canada, the US and Germany are expected to perform better; France much the same as the UK; and Italy and Japan worse.

Overall, it is not a very exciting prospect. Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England, has been warning us for a couple of years now that the next decade will be disappointing compared to the period from 1997 to 2007. This is what he meant.

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12 Responses to “OECD forecasts modest growth for UK economy”

  1. Shamik Das

    OECD forecasts modest growth for UK economy: http://bit.ly/9MRonb reports @ippr's Tony Dolphin on @leftfootfwd

  2. Life: Downloaded

    RT @leftfootfwd: OECD forecasts modest growth for UK economy: http://bit.ly/9MRonb reports @ippr's Tony Dolphin

  3. Stephen W

    Excuse me if I’ve missed something. But haven’t we already had 2.3% growth this year (0.3+1.2+0.8)? Assuming we don’t slip deeply back into recession in the 4th quarter, and I don’t know anyone even vaguely predicting that, aren’t we going to shoot the OECD’s prediction out the water this year?

  4. Anon E Mouse

    In view of the state of Ireland and the Euro surely this is good news?

    At least the Labour panic merchants have been shown to be totally wrong to be running down the country with their stupid “double dip recession” nonsense…

  5. Tony

    Stephen
    There are two ways of looking at growth. The most common is to compare the average level of output in one calendar year with the level in the previous year. The OECD figures I quoted were on this basis. The second is to look at growth during the year, that is to compare the level at the end of one year with the level at the end of the preceding year, which is what you are doing. As it happens, the OECD also produce figures on this basis: 2010Q4 = 2.9%, 2011Q4 = 1.3% and 2012Q4 = 2.3%. These show much better the extent of the slowdown the OECD expects during 2011 and a result of fiscal tightening and low real income growth. Admittedly, not a ‘double dip recession’ – but definitely a significant slowdown in the rate of growth.

  6. Anon E Mouse

    Tony – Has the OECD revised it’s position with reference to Ireland or Greece?

    Seems to me they are not living in the real world and if Germany finally says it won’t support the Euro whilst Ireland’s tax rate is lower than the rest of the Euro then what? Because let’s face it the Euro is essentially a German currency.

    The whole thing seems like guesswork to me…

  7. Families Against National Debt

    It is striking that growth predictions for high-debt Italy and Japan are well below the rest of the G7. Their growth will be truly disappointing.

  8. Tony

    Anon
    The OECD expect Greece to remain in recession during 2011, but are forecasting growth in Ireland – which appears optimistic given developments in the last few days (but then their forecasts were probably finailised some time ago). Of course, it is very difficult to forecast developments in economies that are undergoing such huge major upheavals.
    In fact, all point forecasts should be regarded with some scepticism and reports like this one are best seen as providing the OECD’s take on the dominant underlying trends. This is best summed up as an uninspiring outlook for growth with risks in both directions, but with the negative ones outweighing the positive ones.

  9. Anon E Mouse

    Tony – Fair enough fella…

  10. Stephen W

    Fair enough. I was under the impression that the more common figures were the ones I was referring to. Unless I’ve just been misreading the news reports for quite some time.

  11. Chris

    @Stephen W

    Just to be pedantic, the growth figure from Q2 is going to be revised down as growth in construction has been revised down by a third.

  12. Mr. Sensible

    If the fall in unemployment is that slow what will that do?

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