Figures published today showed that economic growth inched up 0.1 per cent in the final three months of 2009, a lower figure than City expectations of 0.3 per cent.
The sluggish growth came despite bumper sales on the high street and tentative signs that the number of people out of work is starting to come down, or at least level off.
But it ended six consecutive quarters of negative growth, the longest stretch since quarterly records were started in the 1950s.
Britain was the last major nation to start growing again after the worldwide credit crunch spiralled all of the biggest economic centres into recession during 2008.
"The Q4 GDP figures are a major blow to hopes that the UK economy had emerged decisively from recession in Q4," said economist Jonathan Loynes at Capital Economics.
"No doubt some commentators will claim that the figures are under-estimating the true strength of the recovery and will be revised up in time.
"That is certainly possible. But it won’t change the big picture of an economy still operating way below both its pre-recession and trend levels of output."