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.
Latest headlines22 September 2023
- Around 4 in every 10 adults finding energy bills difficult to afford
- Sales recover slightly following poor summer for retailers
- Trading businesses reported lower turnover for August 2023
- Public sector borrowing is lower than official forecasts
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This page was last updated at 09:30 on 22 September 2023
Around 4 in every 10 adults finding energy bills difficult to afford
22 September 2023
Around 4 in every 10 (42%) of adults in Great Britain report they are finding it very or somewhat difficult to afford energy bills. This is according to those asked between 6 and 17 September 2023 as part of our latest Public opinions and social trends bulletin.
This was slightly lower than 48% in a similar period last year (31 August to 11 September 2022).
Among the 56% of people who said their cost of living had risen in the previous month, 60% said the price of their fuel had increased.
Almost half (47%) said they were using less fuel such as gas or electricity in their homes because of the rising cost of living.
- Read our latest Public opinions and social trends bulletin.
Sales recover slightly following poor summer for retailers
22 September 2023
Retail sales have made a partial recovery at the end of a poor summer for shops caused by heavy rain.
Sales volumes (the amount of stuff bought) in Great Britain have increased an estimated 0.4% in August 2023 in the wake of a 1.1% fall the previous month.
Food stores sales volumes rose by 1.2% this month following a 2.6% fall in July 2023. Supermarkets reported that last month’s decline was due to wet weather reducing food and clothing sales.
Non-store retailers, many of which benefitted from the wet July weather due to their online presence, saw a decrease in sales volumes of 1.3% in August 2023.
Automotive fuel sales saw a 1.2% decline in August 2023 after a 0.9% increase in July 2023. Retailers have suggested that rising petrol and diesel prices caused the decrease.
More shoppers took to the streets in August 2023, as the proportion of online retail sales values fell from 27.4% in July 2023 to 26.9% this month.
When compared with their pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) level in February 2020, total retail sales were 17.3% higher in value terms, but volumes were 1.5% lower.
- Read our latest Retail sales, Great Britain bulletin
Trading businesses reported lower turnover for August 2023
21 September 2023
More than a quarter (27%) of trading businesses experienced a fall in turnover in August 2023, compared with the previous calendar month, up 2 percentage points from the 25% reported in July 2023.
In contrast, 15% reported their turnover was higher.
Businesses who reported their turnover had stayed the same were up 2 percentage points over the same period, to 52%.
Public sector borrowing is lower than official forecasts
21 September 2023
The public sector spent more than it received in taxes and other income, in August 2023.
This required it to borrow £11.6 billion, which is £3.5 billion more than in August last year but £1.4 billion less than forecast by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).
This was the fourth-highest August borrowing on record, behind that of August of 2020 and 2021, during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and also behind August 2009, following the global economic downturn.
While growth in central government tax receipts has been slowing in recent months, it remains stronger than in the years before the coronavirus pandemic.
Inflation continues to put upward pressure on spending, and although there was a reduction in debt interest payable this month compared with a year earlier, there continued to be increases in central government pay and procurement spending and because benefit payments have been uprated.
This all brings the amount borrowed in the financial year to August 2023 (April to August) to £69.6 billion, £19.3 billion more than in the same five-month period last year but £11.4 billion less than the £81.0 billion the OBR forecast.
Public sector net debt at the end of August 2023 was provisionally estimated at 98.8% of GDP (gross domestic product). That is to say, the level of debt was slightly less than the value of the output of the UK economy over a 12-month period.
On 29 September 2023, we will publish updated estimates of GDP. These data will be reflected in our next public sector finances statistical bulletin published on 20 October 2023.
We recently published a blog explaining How the ONS estimates UK debt to GDP figures and their susceptibility to revision.
- Read our latest UK public sector finances bulletin
House price growth slows while private rents rise at a record pace
20 September 2023
The annual inflation rate of average UK house prices continued to slow in the year to July 2023, with prices decreasing over the year in some regions.
The provisional estimate for the average price of a UK house was £290,000 in July 2023. This is £2,000 higher than the same month a year ago, but £2,000 less than the recent peak in November 2022.
This represents an average increase of 0.6% in the year to July 2023 (provisional), down from growth of 1.9% in the year to May 2023 (revised estimate).
House prices in England also increased by 0.6% in the 12 months to July 2023. Annual house price inflation was slower in Scotland, at 0.1%, while average house prices in Wales fell by 0.1% in the 12 months to July 2023.
Of the English regions, the North East saw the highest house price inflation in the year to July 2023 (2.7%), although this was down from 5.7% in the year to June 2023. House prices in the North East remain the lowest of all English regions at £163,000.
The South West saw the lowest annual inflation of any English region, with prices decreasing by 1.0% in the year to July 2023. London was the only other region where prices decreased in the year to July 2023.
Meanwhile, private rental prices paid by tenants in the UK increased by 5.5% in the year to August 2023. This is the highest annual percentage change since this UK series began in January 2016.
Private rent prices rose 5.4% in England, 6.5% in Wales and 6.0% in Scotland in the year to August 2023. These are the highest annual changes in rental prices since records began (January 2006 for England, January 2010 for Wales, and January 2012 for Scotland).
Private rental prices in London (a city that accounts for almost a third of total UK rental expenditure) increased by 5.9% in the 12 months to August 2023. This was the highest annual percentage change of any English region, and the highest in London since the series began in January 2006.
- Read our latest bulletins on the UK House Price Index and the Index of Private Housing Rental Prices
Inflation eases with food prices rising at slower pace
20 September 2023
The rate at which prices of goods and services are rising for consumers has continued to ease, with the annual inflation rate falling to 6.3% in the year to August 2023.
This was down from 6.4% in July, according to our Consumer Prices Index including owner occupiers’ housing costs (CPIH) release.
The easing of inflation was partly because food and non-alcoholic beverages prices rose by a smaller amount than the same time last year.
Food and non-alcoholic beverage prices rose by 0.3% between July and August 2023, compared with 1.5% between the same two months in 2022. This led to a fall in the annual rate to 13.6% in the year to August 2023. This was down from 14.9% in July and a recent high of 19.2% in March.
Prices of some foods, notably milk, cheese, fish and vegetables, fell between July and August 2023.
Accommodation prices also fell between July and August 2023. This helped the annual inflation rate for restaurants and hotels ease to 8.3% in August, down from 9.6% in July.
- Read our latest Consumer price inflation, UK: August 2023 bulletin
UK disposable income rose between 2020 and 2021
14 September 2023
Gross disposable household income (GDHI) in the UK rose 3.6% between 2020 and 2021, as household finances started to recover from the impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. GDHI is the amount of money available for people to spend or save after taxes and benefits.
In 2021, London had the highest GDHI per head of any UK nation or English region, at £31,094. Northern Ireland had the lowest, at £17,636.
Of 179 local areas in the UK, 152 saw GDHI rise more than inflation (CPIH), while in the remaining 27, growth in disposable income was lower than inflation, which suggests a decrease in the real-terms value of disposable income.
The local areas that saw the biggest increases in GDHI between 2020 and 2021 were the London boroughs of Kensington and Chelsea and Hammersmith and Fulham, where disposable income rose by 6.4%. Causeway Coast and Glens in Northern Ireland had the smallest increase, at 0.2%.
We have mapped how GDHI has changed in areas of the UK between 1997 and 2021.
Direct Debit failures up 14% from last year
14 September 2023
The total Direct Debit failure rate in August 2023 increased by 14% when compared with August 2022.
These data from Pay.UK and Vocalink are part of a new monthly real-time indicator, which tracks Direct Debit average transaction and failure rate.
When compared with July 2023, the total Direct Debit failure rate in August 2023 remained broadly unchanged, staying at similar levels since March 2023.
The total monthly average of Direct Debit transactions saw little change in August 2023 compared with July 2023, and increased by 3 percentage points when compared with August 2022.
Consumer behaviour indicators generally showed decreased activity in the latest week. Revolut debit card spending fell by 11 percentage points when compared with the previous week, with a notable 21 percentage point fall in “Automotive fuel” spending.
According to data from Springboard, overall UK retail footfall decreased to 96% of the previous week, coinciding with the end of the school summer holidays and the previous week containing the summer bank holiday across much of the UK.
- Read the latest Economic activity and social change in the UK, real-time indicators: 14 September 2023 release
Total imports of goods decreased slightly in July
13 September 2023
Total imports of goods in "current prices", which are not adjusted for inflation, decreased by £0.2 billion (0.4%) in July 2023.
Imports from EU countries fell by £0.5 billion, while imports from non-EU countries rose by £0.3 billion. The rise in imports from non-EU countries was primarily the result of increased fuel prices, particularly a slight rebound in gas prices after the large fall in June.
After removing the effect of inflation by calculating "chained volume measures", total goods imports increased by £0.2 billion (0.4%) in July 2023. This was because imports from non-EU countries rose by £0.4 billion (2.1%) while imports from EU countries fell by £0.2 billion (0.8%).
Total exports of goods in “current prices” increased by £0.2 billion (0.8%) because of a £0.5 billion rise in exports to EU countries, while exports to non-EU countries fell by £0.2 billion.
The total trade in goods and services deficit widened by £1.2 billion to £18.8 billion in the three months to July 2023, because of a larger fall in exports than imports.
Imports from the EU continue to be greater than imports from non-EU countries in July 2023
EU and non-EU goods imports and exports, excluding precious metals, current prices, seasonally adjusted, January 2020 to July 2023
- HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) data collection changes following EU exit have affected statistics on UK trade in goods with the EU. Our Impact of trade in goods data collection changes on UK trade statistics articles provide more detail.
- Read our latest UK Trade release
UK GDP estimated to have fallen by 0.5% in July 2023
13 September 2023
Monthly real gross domestic product (GDP) is estimated to have fallen by 0.5% for July 2023, with falls in all three main sectors, following growth of 0.5% in June 2023.
Looking at the broader picture, GDP increased by 0.2% in the three months to July 2023, with growth in all three main sectors.
Services output was down 0.5% in July 2023, after growth of 0.2% in June 2023, and was the main contributor to the fall in GDP in July.
Output in consumer facing services showed no growth in July 2023, following growth of 0.5% in June 2023.
Production output fell by 0.7% in July 2023 after growth of 1.8% in June 2023.
The construction sector declined by 0.5% in July 2023 following a 1.6% rise in June 2023.
Average annual UK pay hits joint record levels
12 September 2023
Regular annual UK pay growth (excluding bonuses) hit 7.8% in May to July 2023, matching the previous three-month period, meaning the most recent increases hit record levels since comparable records began in 2001.
Real terms (adjusted for CPIH inflation) total (including bonuses) and regular pay also rose on the year by 1.2% and 0.6%, respectively.
However, working days lost to industrial action soared from 160,000 in June 2023 to around 281,000 in July (an increase of around 75%), reversing the downward trend seen since the end of March this year, when the number of working days lost to labour force disputes were at their highest since December 2022.
The estimated UK employment rate fell slightly from 76.0% in February to April 2023 to 75.5% in May to July 2023, a decrease driven mainly by full-time self-employed workers.
By contrast, the unemployment rate rose from 3.8% in February to April 2023 to 4.3% in May to July 2023, driven largely by people who were unemployed for up to 12 months.
Estimated job vacancies fell on the quarter for the 14th consecutive period in June to August 2023, dropping by around 64,000 to 989,000.