UK restaurant bookings and job adverts rebound as lockdown eases

London

ENGLISH diners rushed back to restaurants this week and online job adverts are back to pre-pandemic levels, as Britain's economy starts to reopen following the coronavirus pandemic, new figures on Thursday showed.

The slew of economic indicators published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the Bank of England (BOE) also showed that British banks are preparing to increase mortgage lending to households by the most since before the 2008 financial crisis.

Non-essential shops reopened in England for the first time since January on Monday, and restaurants and pubs were allowed to serve customers outside.

While much of Europe is battling with a fresh wave of Covid-19 cases, Britain - which suffered the continent's highest death toll from the disease - is opening up as earlier lockdown measures and a rapid vaccine roll-out has reduced cases.

Restaurant table bookings on April 12 jumped to 79 per cent of their level on the same day in 2019, a year before the pandemic, figures sourced from reservations company OpenTable showed, the ONS said.

Online job adverts recovered to pre-pandemic levels on April 8, as retailers and hospitality companies sought to take on new staff, figures produced by recruitment firm Adzuna for the ONS showed.

"We're not back to normal yet but these are really promising signs," Adzuna co-founder Andrew Hunter said.

The BOE and the International Monetary Fund expect Britain's economy to grow rapidly this year as it recovers from a record 10 per cent slump in 2020.

But it is still likely to take until 2022 before output is back at pre-pandemic levels - a slower recovery than the United States or Japan.

Around 5.7 million employees - 17 per cent of the total workforce - remained on furlough at the end of March, the ONS said, and economists think it is unlikely that all will have work when government support ends at the end of September.

Thursday's figures also showed a fall in a closely watched measure of consumer spending based on BOE data on credit and debit card payment processing.

The so-called "Chaps" spending measure dropped to 83 per cent of its pre-crisis level in the week to April 8 from 88 per cent the week before, likely due to public holidays over Easter, the ONS said. REUTERS

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