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More Britons go out shopping and dining ahead of Easter - ONS

·2-min read
Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Birmingham

LONDON (Reuters) -Britain's consumers increased visits to retailers and leisure providers in the run-up to the Easter holiday weekend and bookings at restaurants were their strongest in seven months, according to data published by the country's statistics agency.

Visits to retail and recreation locations increased by 8% to 91% of their pre-coronavirus levels in the week to April 15, which included the Good Friday bank holiday, the Office for National Statistics said on Thursday.

Seated diner reservations were 138% of 2019 levels, the highest relative level since early September 2021, the ONS said.

The Bank of England and private economists are keeping a close eye on how consumers respond to the sharp rise in inflation that is squeezing household incomes and threatens to slow the economy after its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ONS said interbank CHAPS payments data was broadly unchanged from the previous week at 105% of its February 2020 average level in the week to April 14.

But work-related spending, which includes the purchasing of road fuel, increased by 8 percentage points, reflecting how the fallout from Russia's invasion of Ukraine has pushed global oil prices higher.

In late March, 29% of functioning businesses reported that their production or suppliers or both had been affected by recent increases in energy prices, up from 25% in early March.

Accommodation and food service firms reported the highest percentage at 56%, the ONS said.

Average gas prices fell by 22% in the week to April 17 and were 41% off their recent peak on March 10. But they were 234% higher compared with the same period last year.

The BoE is also keeping a close eye on the labour market as it worries about the risk that a shortage of candidates for jobs pushes up pay and creates a longer-term inflation problem.

Total online job adverts increased by 4% in the week to April 14 April to 144% of their February 2020 average level, the ONS said, using data from jobs website Adzuna.

(Reporting by William Schomberg; editing by David Milliken and Kate Holton)

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