This page provides commentary and charts on the latest changes in the UK economy, using novel and rapid data sources as well as official statistics.
We explain the reasons behind each change as much as possible, although it can be difficult to separate the impacts of different things such as Brexit and COVID-19.
For an overview of our main economic indicators, visit our dashboard.
Latest headlines27 January 2022
- Overall UK retail footfall 80% of pre-pandemic levels
- 28% of businesses in the accommodation and food industry experiencing worker shortages
- Public sector borrowing falls in December 2021 compared with 2020, but remains higher than before the pandemic
This page was last updated at 09:30 on 27 January 2022.
Overall UK retail footfall 80% of pre-pandemic levels
27 January 2022
Overall UK retail footfall increased by 2% in the week to 22 January 2022, bringing the level to 80% of that seen in the equivalent week of 2019.
The current level of overall retail footfall was in part driven by a 4% increase in high street footfall from the previous week, according to data from Springboard. This was 76% of the level seen in the equivalent week of 2019.
In retail parks, there was a 1% decrease in footfall from the previous week and the level was at 95% of that seen in the equivalent week of 2019. Shopping centres saw a 1% increase from the previous week, bringing the level of footfall to 74% of that seen in the same week in 2019.
Overall UK retail footfall saw a week-on-week increase in 9 out of the 10 English regions with the South East remaining unchanged compared with the previous week. The largest weekly increase was in Scotland, which rose by 5%, driven in part by an 8% increase in high street footfall.
28% of businesses in the accommodation and food industry experiencing worker shortages
27 January 2022
Businesses in the UK not permanently stopped trading were asked if they were currently experiencing a shortage of workers in mid-January 2022.
More than 1 in 10 (13%) reported experiencing worker shortages, this has remained broadly stable since the question was introduced in October 2021 . When excluding businesses with fewer than 10 employees, this percentage increased to 34%.
The biggest impacts on these businesses because of the worker shortages were employees working increased hours (45%) and businesses unable to meet demands (45%).
The accommodation and food service activities industry reported the highest percentage of businesses experiencing a shortage of workers, at 28%. These shortages were partially being driven by the restaurants and mobile food service activities sub-industry.
Of businesses not permanently stopped trading, 12% reported vacancies were more difficult to fill in the last month, compared to normal. These businesses reported a lack of qualified applicants for the roles on offer (58%) and a low number of applications for the roles on offer (51%) as the main reasons for difficulties filling their vacancies.
Public sector borrowing falls in December 2021 compared with 2020, but remains higher than before the pandemic
25 January 2022
In December 2021, the UK public sector borrowed £16.8 billion, the fourth-highest December borrowing on record.
This was £7.6 billion less than the borrowing in December 2020 but still £11.0 billion more than in December 2019, before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Initial estimates of central government receipts for December 2021 were £68.5 billion, up £6.2 billion compared with December 2020, with central government tax receipts £4.6 billion (or 10%) higher than a year earlier.
In December 2021, central government bodies are estimated to have spent £76.5 billion on their day-to-day activities, including £8.1 billion on the interest on the government’s outstanding debt, the second-highest interest payment in any month on record, behind the £9.0 billion of June 2021.
The recent high levels of debt interest payments are largely a result of movements in the Retail Prices Index (RPI), to which index-linked gilts are pegged.
In the financial year-to-December 2021, the UK public sector borrowed £146.8 billion, £129.3 billion less than in the same nine-month period a year ago. Much of this improvement is because of growth of 19% in central government tax receipts and a 5% fall in central government departmental day-to-day spending compared with a year earlier.
Borrowing in the financial year ending March 2021 is now estimated at 15.0% of GDP, the highest borrowing to GDP ratio since the end of World War II when, in the financial year ending March 1946, it was at 15.2%.
The substantial increase in borrowing over the COVID-19 period has led to sharp increase in public sector net debt. UK public sector net debt is now estimated at 96.0% GDP (or £2.3 trillion), the highest ratio since March 1963 when it was 98.3%.
Removing the Bank of England from this measure, net debt at the end of December 2021 reduces by £0.3 trillion (or 13.3 percentage points of GDP) to £2.0 trillion (or 82.7% GDP).
Retail sales volumes fall at fastest rate in 11 months in December 2021
21 January 2022
Retail sales volumes fell by 3.7% in December 2021, the largest monthly fall since January 2021 (negative 8.3%) but remained 2.6% higher than their pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) levels. This followed growth of 1.0% in November 2021 (revised down from 1.4%).
In non-food stores, sales volumes fell by 7.1% in December 2021 because of falls in each of its sub-sectors: clothing stores (8.0%), department stores (6.3%), household goods stores (3.2%) and other non-food stores (8.9%), which includes retailers such as sports equipment, games and toy stores. The Omicron variant of COVID-19, which increased rapidly during December 2021, was reported by some retailers as impacting retail footfall, and thus sales.
Food sales volumes fell by 1.0% over the month, while non-store retailing fell by 0.3%. Automotive fuel sales volumes fell by 4.7% in December 2021. This may be because of increased home working and reduced travel following England’s move to Plan B restrictions.
The value of online spending fell by 1.8% in December 2021. Despite this fall, the proportion of online sales rose slightly to 26.6% in December 2021, from 26.3% in November 2021.
Fall in monthly turnover highest since April 2020
20 January 2022
The net proportion of businesses reporting a fall in monthly turnover was at its highest since April 2020, as reported in December 2021.
A net 6% of firms reported decreasing turnover compared with the previous month according to data from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) VAT returns.
|Total||Agriculture, forestry and fishing||Production||Construction||Services|
Download this table In December 2021, a net 6% of firms reported decreasing turnover compared with the previous month.xls .csv
This is part of a new indicators from HMRC data, VAT flash estimate diffusion indices. This complements the existing VAT diffusion indices, but our new flash indicator only uses monthly VAT returns received up to the seventh day (day seven) after the end of the reporting month, which are typically returns submitted in the first five working days after the reporting month.
Our new flash estimates will be published three weeks earlier and are therefore the fastest indicator of economic output that the Office for National Statistics (ONS) produces. Turnover diffusion indices are an aggregate measure used to track whether most firms are reporting an increase or decrease in turnover in their VAT returns.
UK average house prices increased by 10% over the year to November 2021
19 January 2022
The UK’s average house price increased by 10.0% over the year to November 2021, up from 9.8% in the year to October 2021. The average UK house price was £271,000 in November, which is £25,000 higher than the same month in 2020.
The temporary changes to Stamp Duty, Land and Buildings Transaction Tax, and Land Transaction Tax may have allowed sellers to request higher prices as buyers’ overall costs are reduced. As the tax breaks were originally due to conclude at the end of March 2021, it is likely that March’s average house prices were slightly inflated as buyers rushed to ensure their house purchases were scheduled to complete ahead of this deadline.
This effect was then further exaggerated in June 2021, in line with the extension to the holiday on taxes paid on property purchases in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Following a decrease in July 2021, average house prices increased in the months of August and September 2021, reaching a record level in September 2021 (when the last of the tax holidays came to an end in England). Despite a slight fall in the month of October 2021, average house prices in November 2021 of £271,000 are now just below this record level (£272,000).
Private rental prices paid by tenants in the UK rose by 1.8% in the 12 months to December 2021, up from 1.7% in the 12 months to November 2021. The beginning of 2021 saw a slight slowdown in rental price growth, which was driven by prices in London.
London’s rental price growth in December 2021 (negative 0.1%) remains the lowest of any of the English regions. This may reflect a decrease in demand, such as remote working shifting housing preferences, meaning workers no longer need to be close to their offices. It may also reflect an increase in supply, such as an excess supply of rental properties as short-term lets change to long-term lets.