The UK economy contracted by 0.2% in the first quarter of the year, slipping back into technical recession, preliminary estimates from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have shown.
Any figure below 0% would have put the UK firmly in double-dip territory following growth of -0.3% in the final quarter of 2011.
Consecutive quarters of negative GDP is commonly taken to mean an official recession. The last time the UK entered recession was in Q2 2008, and did not return to positive growth until over a year later (Q3 2009).
Today's figure constitutes only the first estimate by the ONS, and is based on about 40% of the information it will eventually use to reflect real Q1 activity.
Despite the disappointing numbers, David Miles, from the Bank of England's interest rate-setting Monetary Policy Committee, said in an interview with Bloomberg on Tuesday that underlying growth may be stronger than reported.
"It's perfectly possible to think that the underlying growth position of the economy is stronger than the headline GDP numbers. In fact, I think that's probably true," he said.
Matthew Cheung, chief economist at the market analysts RANsquawk, added:
"The next few months are clearly coin toss territory, with even Mervyn King predicting that the economy could switch between growth and contraction this year.
"The current quarter's economic output is likely to be pegged back when Britain enjoys an extra Bank Holiday for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.
"Though the economy's future prospects are highly uncertain, the chances of imminent monetary stimulus got slimmer after the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee became noticeably more hawkish in April.
"With the prospect of further QE next month looking much less certain, any growth in the shrinking economy will have to be driven by Britain's still skittish and wary consumers."