Life in the slow lane

Assessing the UK’s economic and trade performance since 2010

This briefing note is the third output in a programme of outputs designed to put the upcoming UK general election in context, supported by the Nuffield Foundation. It looks at the performance of the UK economy and trade since 2010.

The UK grew faster than other G7 economies in the first quarter of 2024 but, stepping back, our overall record on GDP growth since 2010 puts us at third in the G7. GDP growth has been flattered by a booming population, so that GDP per person has grown by only 0.9 per cent per year, and has actually fallen by 1.2 per cent over the most recent parliament. Growth in the 2010s was driven by an employment boom during the 2010s that has since turned to bust, exposing the UK’s weak productivity growth – the second-worst in the G7 since 2010.

A key driver of productivity is trade, and here the picture is mixed. The UK has cemented its role as the world’s second-biggest exporter of services but is rapidly losing market share in goods trade. Looking forward, with another employment boom not on the cards, the UK will need higher investment to drive growth in productivity and GDP per person.