Business activity slows sharply on Omicron

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Business activity slows sharply on Omicron
Deputy Mayor of Falmouth, Councillor Kirstie Edwards (right), gives a pack of Lateral Flow Tests to a local business owner at the Amanzi restaurant in Falmouth in a bid to help ease the shortage of tests available in the town following the high demand for testing kits caused by the outbreak of the Covid Omicron variant in the UK, on December 16, 2021, in Falmouth, Cornwall, England. (Photo by Hugh Hastings/Getty Images)

Britain’s private sector business activity slowed sharply in December as the Omicron coronavirus variant hit consumer services, a key survey showed Thursday.

The composite purchasing managers’ index (PMI) hit a 10-month low of 53.2 points, compilers IHS Markit and the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply said in a statement.

That compared with a reading of 57.6 in November, but it held just above the key 50 level to indicate expansion.

“The flash PMI data show the UK economy being hit once again by Covid-19, with growth slowing sharply at the end of the year led by a steep drop in spending on services by households,” said IHS Markit economist Chris Williamson.

“With Covid-19 infections set to rise further in coming weeks due to the spread of the Omicron variant, and more restrictions being introduced, the pace of economic growth looks likely to continue to weaken as we head into 2022.”

In addition, Williamson warned that rising infection rates, both at home and abroad, could worsen the ongoing global supply crunch.

“Private sector output growth eased considerably in response to tighter pandemic restrictions and renewed business uncertainty,” added IHS Markit.

“The slowdown was centred on the service sector, which more than offset a modest acceleration in manufacturing production at the end of 2021.”

IHS Markit revealed in a separate survey that eurozone business activity slowed in December to a nine-month nadir on Omicron fallout.