Britain\'s economy shrank 0.2 percent in the fourth quarter of last year compared with the third, official data showed on Friday, putting the country close to a return to recession. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) left its initial reading for gross domestic product (GDP) for the final three months of 2011 unchanged. A further contraction in the first quarter of 2012 would place Britain back in recession, defined as two successive negative quarters. The ONS also revised down its growth estimate for the whole of 2011 to 0.8 percent from the previously given 0.9 percent. The British economy struggled last year amid harsh state austerity measures, falling consumer spending and the ongoing fallout from the long-running sovereign debt crisis in key trading partner the eurozone. Economists said Britain\'s economic outlook was uncertain, despite recent encouraging industry data, with no resolution in sight to the eurozone crisis. \"A return to growth in the first quarter is by no means guaranteed and the country clearly faces a significant risk of sliding back into another recession,\" said Markit economist Chris Williamson. The ONS said household consumption increased 0.5 percent in the final three months of 2011 but was down 0.8 percent over the whole year. \"Within the gloomy headline, some good news is to be found,\" said economist Rob Harbron at the Centre for Economics and Business Research consultancy. \"UK consumers started spending again in the final three months of last year ... following four consecutive quarters of falling consumption. \"Consumer spending is important for UK growth as it makes up over three fifths of the total economy,\" he added. The Bank of England voted earlier this month to pump up the faltering economy with an additional £50 billion and to keep interest rates at a record-low 0.50 percent to head off any recession clouds. Policymakers voted to increase the BoE\'s Quantitative Easing (QE) stimulus by £50 billion (60 billion euros, $80 billion) to a total of £325 billion. Under QE, the central bank creates new cash that is used to purchase assets such as government and corporate bonds in the hope of giving a boost to lending and economic activity.