Coronavirus: UK service sector activity plummets at record pace

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A widely watched economic survey shows the country’s dominant service sector all but stalled in April.

Widespread business shutdowns in response to the coronavirus resulted in the sharpest decline since data collection began.

Around 79% of UK service providers, such as retail and restaurants, reported a fall in business activity.

The Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) showed a record-low reading of just 13.4 in April, down from 34.5 in March.

Prior to the last two months, the survey’s record low stood at 40.1 in November 2008, the period of the credit crisis.

Readings below 50 indicate contraction.

Purchasing managers – senior managers in companies who keep across what is happening to a company’s orders and buy its supplies – see before anyone else if business is drying up.

Tim Moore, economics director at IHS Markit, which compiles the survey with the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply, said the data “highlights that the downturn in the UK economy during the second quarter of 2020 will be far deeper and more widespread than anything seen in living memory”.

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