LONDON -- The British economy shrank by 1.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008, confirming an initial estimate made last month that put Britain in recession, official data showed on Wednesday.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said in a statement that gross domestic product (GDP) had shrunk by 1.5 percent in the fourth quarter compared with the third quarter of 2008 when it contracted by 0.7 percent.
Originally, the ONS had said the economy contracted by 0.6 percent in the third quarter.
The generally-used technical definition of a recession is two quarters running of negative economic growth.
Britain is mired in recession for the first time since 1991, while the GDP figure for the final quarter of 2008 shows the biggest fall since 1980.
"There are significant contributions to the decline from both the services and production sectors, compounded by a fall in construction," the ONS said on Wednesday.
Household expenditure, buckling under the weight of recession and mounting job cuts, sank by 0.7 percent in the fourth quarter, compared with a 0.2-percent drop in the previous three months.
On an annual basis, British GDP sank by 1.9 percent during the fourth quarter compared with the October-December period in 2007.
That marked a slight downgrade from the previous estimate of a 1.8-percent contraction.
The ONS also confirmed that the economy grew by 0.7 percent in 2008, the slowest annual rate since 1992 and a dramatic slowdown after 3.0-percent expansion in 2007.
The Bank of England slashed interest rates earlier this month by 50 basis points to a record low 1.0 percent, as it sought to boost the recession-hit economy.
Britain joins the United States, the eurozone and Japan in recession as the global economy struggles to recover from the impact of the worldwide credit crunch.
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