THE UK economy grew by 0.7 per cent during the fourth quarter of 2013 and by 1.9 per cent over the year - its best annual performance since 2007, the Office for National Statistics said today. 

In 2007, the last year when the pace of growth was faster, the economy grew by 3.4 per cent. In 2012, growth was just 0.3 per cent.

Today's figures show the scale of improvements in the economy's prospects, a year after it was feared that the country was about to sink into an unprecedented triple-dip recession.

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They provide the latest boost for Chancellor George Osborne after the International Monetary Fund recently upgraded its forecast for growth in Britain - just months after the body told the Government it should rethink its austerity strategy.

But the surprise pace of growth in 2013 saw the economy grow by 0.5 per cent in the first quarter and 0.8 per cent in the second and third three-month periods of the year.

The estimated fourth-quarter figure of 0.7 per cent marks a slowdown as the overall performance was dragged down by the construction sector, which shrank by 0.3 per cent.

This was largely the result of a 4 per cent slump in November - which has previously been disclosed - despite support from Government schemes such as Help to Buy.

Construction remains 11.2 per cent off its pre-recession level in the first quarter of 2008.

Manufacturing improved by 0.9 per cent in the fourth quarter. The sector remains 8.2 per cent off pre-crisis levels.

Services, which represent three quarters of UK economic output, improved by 0.8 per cent. It is now above 2008 levels.