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.

This page was last updated at 09:30 on 23 September 2021.

Online job adverts at 133% of February 2020 level

23 September 2021

The total volume of online job adverts grew by 3% in the week to 17 September 2021, bringing the level to 133% of that in February 2020.

According to data from Adzuna, the rise in online job adverts was the highest weekly rise since 30 July 2021. Of 28 categories, 23 saw a weekly increase, which was the highest number of categories to see growth in the same week since 2 July 2021.

The total volume of online job adverts on 17 September 2021 grew by 3% from the previous week, to 133% of its February 2020 average level

Volume of online job adverts by category, index: 100 = February 2020 average, 4 January 2019 to 17 September 2021, non-seasonally adjusted

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Notes:
  1. Further category breakdowns are included in the  online job advert estimates dataset and more details on the methodology can be found in  Using  Adzuna data to derive an indicator of weekly vacancies.
  2. Users should note that week-on-week changes in online job advert volumes are outlined as percentages, rather than as percentage point changes. Percentage change figures quoted in the commentary will therefore not necessarily match the percentage point changes observed in the charts and  accompanying dataset.

Download data for online job adverts (XLSX, 32 KB)

The category with the largest increase in online job adverts was “transport, logistics and warehouse”, which grew by 8% compared with the previous week. Since 12 March 2021, this category has had the highest volume of job adverts relative to its February 2020 pre-pandemic average level and is at 352% of this level in the latest week. In EUROCONTROL data, the seven-day average number of UK daily flights was 3,593 in the week ending 19 September 2021. This is 54% of the level seen in the same week of 2019.

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36% of construction businesses reported supply chain issues

23 September 2021

The construction industry was the top industry experiencing a challenge with supply chains in late August 2021, according to the most recent Business Insights and Conditions Survey (BICS) results. More than one in three (36%) of businesses in this industry that had not permanently stopped trading reported that they were either not able to get the materials, goods or services they needed from within the UK, or had to change suppliers or find alternative solutions to do so.

Businesses not permanently stopped trading were asked if they were able to get the materials, goods or services they needed from within the UK in the last two weeks.

Across all industries, 10% reported they were able to get the materials, goods or services they needed, but had to change suppliers or find alternative solutions to do so, this is up from 8% in early July 2021.

Across all industries, 8% reported they were not able to get the materials, goods or services needed, this has remained broadly stable from early August 2021.

Businesses not permanently stopped trading were also asked how their stock levels for the last two weeks compared with normal expectations for this time of year.

Of businesses surveyed, 5% reported that stock levels were higher than normal, while 11% reported that stock levels were lower. Almost one in four businesses (24%) reported that stock levels had not changed while the remainder either reported “not sure” or “not applicable”. These figures have remained stable since late December 2021.

The accommodation and food service activities industry had the largest percentage of businesses that indicated stock levels were lower than normal at 30%, followed by the wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles industry at 23%.

Nearly one in three businesses (27%) in the accommodation and food service activities industry also reported supply chain issues, and that the main reason for their changes in stock levels was the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

In recent media, there have been reports of some businesses within the accommodation and food service activities industry experiencing supply shortages.

Businesses also reported on whether they plan to make redundancies in the next three months.

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August borrowing the second highest on record, behind 2020

21 September 2021

In August 2021, the UK public sector borrowed £20.5 billion, the second highest August borrowing on record. Although this was £5.5 billion less than the £26.1 billion borrowed in August 2020, it is still £15.3 billion more than that of August 2019.

Borrowing makes up the shortfall between spending by the government and other public sector organisations and its income such as taxes.

Central government receipts were £61.2 billion in August 2021, £5.3 billion more than in August 2020. Of these receipts, tax revenue was £45.0 billion, a £4.1 billion increase compared to a year earlier.

Central government bodies spent £79.6 billion in August 2021, £1.0 billion less than in August 2020, with the £2.9 billion rise in debt interest costs offset by the £4.9 billion fall in spending on the job furlough schemes.

Borrowing in the financial year-to-August 2021 was £93.8 billion, £88.9 billion less than the £182.7 billion borrowed in the same period last year and £31.8 billion less than the official forecast.

This month, as a part of our annual update strategy we have introduced several significant classification and methodological revisions to our public sector finance estimates.

Largely as a result of these planned changes, borrowing in the financial year ending (FYE) March 2021 increased by £27.1 billion to £325.1 billion since our last publication (20 August 2021). This revision included the recording of the expected £20.9 billion cost of the government loan guarantee schemes for the first time.

Borrowing in FYE March 2021 now stands at £15.5% of GDP (revised up from 14.2%), the highest borrowing to GDP ratio since the end of World War II (22.4% in FYE 1945).

The recent substantial increase in borrowing has led to sharp increase in public sector net debt which currently stands at 97.6% of GDP, the highest ratio since the 98.3% recorded in March 1963.

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Retail sales continue to fall as COVID-19 restrictions ease

17 September 2021

Retail sales volumes fell by 0.9% on a monthly basis in August 2021 but remained 4.6% higher than pre-pandemic levels (February 2020).

Food store sales volumes fell by 1.2% compared with the previous month. This may be the result of the further lifting of hospitality restrictions, as more people increased their spending on activities such as eating out. The trend is supported by data from Open Table and data on UK spending on debit and credit cards (CHAPS).

Non-food store sales volumes dropped by 1.0% in August 2021. Department stores experienced the largest fall (negative 3.7%), followed by other non-food stores (negative 1.2%) and household goods stores (negative 0.5%). Only clothing stores reported growth, with a monthly increase of 0.7%.

Automotive fuel sales volumes saw growth of 1.5% compared with July 2021 as a result of an increase in travel and the lifting of coronavirus restrictions. However, volumes are still 1.2% below pre-pandemic levels (February 2020).

The effects of recent supply chain disruptions were evident in August. Across businesses in the retail industry, 6.5% reported difficulties in finding materials, goods and services in the two weeks between 9 and 22 August. Furthermore, 8.9% reported they had to find alternative solutions or change suppliers to avoid potential disruptions.

The proportion of online retail spending values increased to 27.7% in August 2021, from 27.1% in July, although it is below the peak pandemic level of 36.5% (February 2021).

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Hospitality businesses are most likely to be struggling to fill vacancies

16 September 2021

Hospitality businesses are more than twice as likely as other industries to be experiencing challenges in filling vacancies compared with normal expectations for this time of year.

Between 23 August and 5 September 2021, 30% of hospitality businesses said that vacancies were more difficult to fill than normal. This compares with 13% across all industries (up from 9% in early August).

These difficulties coincide with a very busy time for recruitment, according to the latest labour market data, with hospitality among several industries posting record numbers of vacancies in June to August 2021.

While vacancies are at record levels, the total number of employees on UK payrolls is around the same as it was in February 2020.

Among industries, payrolled employment was generally rising in August 2021, but remained below pre-pandemic levels by as much as 6.0% in hospitality and 10.2% in arts and recreation.

Vacancies are above pre-pandemic levels, but the number of payrolled employees is yet to recover in some industries

Vacancies by selected industry, UK, December 2019 to February 2020 to June to August 2021, Index Jan-Mar 2020 = 100; Payrolled employment by selected industry, UK, February 2020 to August 2021, Index Feb 2020 = 100

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Data for vacancies and payroll employees by selected industries (XLSX, 29KB)

The difference between the rate of growth in vacancies compared with payrolled employment may reflect the time it takes to fill jobs, as well as recruitment challenges.

In industries such as hospitality and arts and recreation, the number of employees on payrolls is rising, suggesting that vacancies are gradually being filled.

However, in the transport and storage industry, the number of people on payrolls is falling while vacancies are increasing. This suggests a gap between industry demand for workers and their availability.

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UK average house prices increased by 8.0% over the year to July 2021

15 September 2021

The UK’s average house price increased by 8.0% over the year to July, down from 13.1% in the year to June 2021. The UK average house price for July 2021 was £256,000, which is £19,000 higher than this time last year, following the record high of £265,000 in June 2021.

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. Average house prices for July returned to similar levels seen earlier in the year.

Private rental prices paid by tenants in the UK rose by 1.3% in the 12 months to August 2021, unchanged since July 2021. The beginning of 2021 saw a slowdown in rental price growth, which was driven by prices in London.

London’s rental price growth in August 2021 (negative 0.4%) is lower than any other English region. This reflects a decrease in demand, partly because of the adaptation of remote working meaning that workers no longer need to be close to their offices. It also reflects an increase in supply, such as an excess supply of rental properties as short-term lets change to long-term lets.

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