Only Italy will take longer to bounce back to a period of growth.

The revelation comes as a blow to the British government, which is battling to get the economy back on track despite an initial boost earlier this year.

Paris-based thinktank, the OECD The OECD, which produces quarterly figures showing year-on-year growth, said that UK output declined by 1.2% in the final quarter of 2011 and will decline by 0.4% in the first three months of 2012.

Its gloomy prognosis was reinforced by the Office for National Statistics, which reported Wednesday a bigger fall in output in the final three months of 2011 than first estimated.

It said a previous 0.2% drop in output had underestimated the size of the fall, which further analysis found to be 0.3%.

The OECD said the fragile eurozone would struggle to grow for the rest of the year, and blamed Brussels for failing to build a sufficient firewall of guarantees to protect against sovereign collapse.

Even Germany and France, which will race ahead of the UK in the first half of the year, are due to slow down as the year ends.

Construction, traditionally a driver of growth, has been one of the worst-hit industries in the UK.

Major construction firm Balfour Beatty is poised to cut 12,000 staff, as reduced public spending on infrastructure and maintenance, plus reduced private building, were hitting profit margins.