UK services sector strongest since pre-crisis boom

Alexander Alioto
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images
Alexander Alioto

Business activity in the U.K.'s service sector grew to its highest level seen since before the financial crash of 2008, according to a new report released on Tuesday.

The report by the Confederation of British Industry backs up official data from the Office for National Statistics on Friday which showed that the sector was just 0.2 percent below its peak level in the first quarter of 2008, demonstrating that almost all of the lost output in services during 2008 and 2009 has now been recovered.

"We've seen a further buildup of momentum in the service sector this quarter, with business and professional services firms in particular seeing a turnaround in their fortunes," Stephen Gifford, CBI's director of economics said in a press release.

"Confidence has risen strongly across the board, and the outlook is positive in the short-term."

(Read more: Services sector helps double UK's growth rate)

Despite George Osborne, the U.K.'s finance minister calling for a "march of the makers" back in 2011 to lead the country out of recession, the services sector that has dominated growth figures, with manufacturing continuing to lag behind. It is the only sector that has grown steadily since the 2008-09 recession ended, while U.K. construction and production have trended downwards.

On Friday a revision of gross domestic product (GDP) data showed that the U.K. economy grew by 0.7 percent in the second quarter of 2013, up from a previous estimate of 0.6 percent. Analysts were quick to point out that the U.K. is staging a "mini-recovery", with these latest figures continuing to show that the U.K. service sector - a goliath of the U.K. economy since the 1980s - has been driving the country out of recession since 2008.

The CBI's report - which surveys 161 companies - is divided into two categories, with the business and professional services sector given a separate index to consumer services, which includes hotels, bars, restaurants and the travel and leisure industries.

(Read more: UK economy in good shape, more positive news unveiled)

The business and professional services sector saw business volumes rise at their fastest pace since November 2007, with profitability recording its strongest growth since February 2008. It also noted that optimism about future business reached a 15-year high – rising at the fastest rate since the survey began in November 1998.

Consumer services saw business volumes rise at their fastest pace since August 2007, but profitability fell unexpectedly, recording its largest decline since February 2012 as price growth failed to materialize.

"Consumer services firms are a bit more worried about the longer-term, and have scaled back their investment and expansion plans," Gifford said.

"Conditions remain tricky as households grapple with the prolonged squeeze on real incomes and business confidence remains vulnerable to any adverse developments in the global economy. But, all being well, business should continue to pick up through this year and into next."

By's Matt Clinch. Follow him on Twitter @mattclinch81