The UK’s services sector grew at its fastest pace for five months in January, raising hopes that the economy will avoid falling back into recession.
Output within the industry rose by 0.8% in January 2013 compared with January 2012, according to figures released by the Office for National Statistics.
Most economists think the UK will just avoid a triple-dip recession, but unseasonably bad weather in March, which has seen the country covered in a white blanket of snow, threatens to tip the balance back towards an unprecedented third slump before a recovery.
Insurer RSA calculates that a conservative estimate would be £473m a day lost because of the snow. It also said that if 44 percent of the workforce could not make it to work, as in the period of bad weather during December 2010, this figure could rise to as much as £629m.
The largest contributions came from transport and financial services.
Transport, storage and communication firms within the service sector gave the biggest thrust top the headline month-on-month figure, with this sub-sector seeing 1.3% growth.
Government and other services grew by 0.3% in January, while business services and finance expanded 0.2% on the month.
The services sector, which includes areas such as transport, communication, hotels and restaurants, has grown in spite of weaknesses in the manufacturing and construction sector.
The only sub-sector not to grow was distribution, hotels and restaurants, which saw flat output.
Figures released earlier this month by the ONS showed that manufacturing output in January had fallen by 1.5% from the month before.