'Potential errors' delay release of GDP figures

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In a highly unusual move, and one that spread a frisson through City economists, the Office for National Statistics announced yesterday that its next release of data on economic growth would be postponed.

Given the recent erratic record of GDP data, the announcement has sparked concerns that the figures may have looked radically different to the previous picture of tentative recovery. Wilder speculation suggested that the ONS was applying extra caution before putting the UK on course for a "double-dip" recession.

Since the global slump began in 2008 growth data has been extremely sensitive politically.

The ONS said: "Quality assurance revealed potential errors in some of the detailed figures in the National Accounts data set. To allow time to ensure the statistics fully meet National Statistics standards, ONS has decided reluctantly to postpone publication until 12 July."

Howard Archer, chief economist at Global Insight, commented: "I always get twitchy when economic data releases are delayed and tend to fear the worst – but that is probably just because I am a natural pessimist." The reality may simply be that the pressure of extra detail in this particular release has slowed the ONS down.

The third estimate of GDP growth in the first quarter of this year was due today, with analysts expecting little or no change to the previous estimate of 0.2 per cent growth.