The UK economy saw no growth in February after being hit by the effects of strikes by public sector workers, official figures show.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that a rise in construction activity had been offset by walkouts by teachers and civil servants.
It follows a surprise 0.4% jump in economic growth in January.
Despite February’s flat performance, the chancellor said the UK’s economic outlook was “brighter than expected”.
Jeremy Hunt noted that GDP – the measure of economic growth – had grown by 0.1% in the three months to February and the UK was “set to avoid recession”.
But Labour said the UK was “lagging behind on the global stage with growth on the floor”.
“The reality of growth inching along is families worse off, high streets in decline and a weaker economy that leaves us vulnerable to shocks,” said shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves.
Darren Morgan, ONS director of economic statistics, said the UK construction sector had grown strongly in February after a poor January, with increased repair work taking place.
There was also a boost from retailing, with many shops having “a buoyant month”.
But he added: “These were offset by the effects ofCivil Service and teachers‘ strike action, which impacted the public sector, and unseasonably mild weather led to falls in the use of electricity and gas.”
Walkouts by teachers nationwide on 1 February and in some regions of England on 28 February had been the biggest drag on growth, the ONS said.
Strikes by many civil servants on 1 February also affected output.
High energy prices, rising interest rates and weak trade flows have been dragging on the UK economy for some time.
On Wednesday, the International Monetary Fund warned the UK is set to be one of the worst performing major economies in the world this year.
However, many economists expect inflation – the rate at which prices rise – to ease later this year as energy and food prices fall.
The UK’s inflation rate was 10.4% in the year to February, the highest for nearly 40 years.
Yael Selfin, chief economist at KPMG UK, said the economy was “likely to escape recession but a period of stagnation awaits”.
“Economic activity will remain subdued in the near term as households continue to be squeezed by elevated prices and the cumulative impact of past interest rate increases,” she said.
Capital Economics agreed the UK had “probably avoided recession” but said more interest rate rises were likely as the Bank of England fights to get inflation under control.
The Bank has raised rates steadily since December 2021, most recently from 4% to 4.25% in March.