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 headlines19 April 2021
This page was last updated at 09:30 on 19 April 2021.
Homeworking went up by 9.4 percentage points in 2020
19 April 2021
Of employed adults, 35.9% worked from home at some point during 2020, 9.4 percentage points higher than the level in 2019.
The average gross weekly pay of workers who had recently worked from home was about 20% higher in 2020 than those who had never worked from home in their main job, when controlling for other factors. Prior to the pandemic those who had recently or occasionally worked from home earnt on average 23.4% and 12.0% more than those who never worked from home, respectively.
During 2020 the hours worked by home workers changed. In the early part of the pandemic (April, Wave 1 2020) homeworkers tended to keep hours close to typical office hours. However, by September (Wave 2 2020), homeworking schedules had shifted later, and homeworkers were more likely to work in the evenings compared with those who worked away from home.
Homeworkers were more likely to work in the evenings in September, when compared with April 2020, but are less likely to when compared with homeworkers in 2015
Total homeworkers who were working from home by time of day, Index 12:00 = 100, Great Britain, 2015 to 2020
- Wave 1 reference period 28 March to 26 April 2020.
- Wave 2 reference period 5 September to 11 October 2020.
Homeworkers had a much lower sickness rate in 2020. The sickness absence rate for workers doing any work from home was 0.9% on average in 2020, compared with 2.2% for those who never worked from home in their main job.
In 2020, people working from home worked more hours of unpaid overtime than those who never worked from home: around 6.0 hours compared with 3.6.
Seated diner reservations and online job adverts increase as coronavirus restrictions ease
15 April 2021
Lockdown measures eased across England on Monday 12 April 2021, allowing restaurants to open for outdoor dining. OpenTable estimates for UK seated diner reservations on this day were at 79% of the level seen on the equivalent Monday of 2019, the first time the level has exceeded 2% since before the latest lockdown was announced on 4 January 2021. The equivalent figures for London and Manchester were 47% and 153%, respectively.
On 9 April 2021, total online job adverts reached 100% of their February 2020 average level - the highest proportion seen since 6 March 2020, according to Adzuna. This was partly driven by a notable increase to the “catering and hospitality” category, which reached 58% of its February 2020 average level on 9 April 2021. This is the highest proportion of online job adverts for “catering and hospitality” since 20 March 2020.
Conversely, following a period of increase in recent months, online job adverts for “travel and tourism” declined when compared with 1 April 2021 to 84% of their February 2020 average level on 9 April 2021.
A story of two recessions: productivity in 2008 and 2020
14 April 2021
Productivity (labour productivity, multi-factor productivity, and public service productivity) declined in the first half of 2020 largely as a result of government restrictions to limit the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Output per hour (one measure of labour productivity) and multi-factor productivity (MFP) declined in the first half of the year as a result of gross value added falling more than hours worked during the first lockdown, with businesses having to adapt to the new situation.
Both increased in Quarter 3 (July to Sept) 2020 as restrictions were eased – largely because of the shifting distribution of industries that continued to operate – but underlying productivity remained subdued.
With the reintroduction of restrictions on economic activity in Quarter 4 (Oct to Dec) 2020, output per hour declined as gross value added recovered at a slower rate than total hours worked, while multi-factor productivity declined again as a result of shifts in economic activity between industries.
These changes contrast with the long and slow fall and recovery experienced following the economic downturn in 2008.
Productivity measures and inputs throughout the coronavirus and the 2008 economic downturn
Output per hour, multifactor productivity, public service productivity, coronavirus compared with 2008 economic downturn
The fall in public service productivity (PSP) was much more severe than the corresponding decrease during the economic downturn in 2008. PSP fell by 0.5% during the economic downturn, whereas in 2020 the initial estimate of the fall in PSP was 15.4%. This is because of changes in the composition of public services to combat the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which did not occur in the 2008 to 2009 downturn.
Government spending increased, for example on healthcare and personal protective equipment (PPE), while simultaneously output was negatively affected by school closures and cancelled non-urgent medical treatments. As a result of inputs increasing while outputs fell, public service productivity decreased.
The economy grew by 0.4% in February 2021
13 April 2021
Real gross domestic product (GDP) is estimated to have grown by 0.4% in February 2021 following a revised fall of 2.2% in January 2021.
Restrictions were in place to varying degrees across all four nations of the UK throughout January and February. Restriction announcements for each nation are available:
The output approach to GDP shows that February’s level is 7.8% below levels before the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic were seen (February 2020), and 3.1% below the initial recovery peak (October 2020). Overall, all main sectors of GDP remain below their pre-pandemic levels, but only services remains notably lower than the initial recovery peak in October 2020.
Output growth in the services sector was broadly flat in February 2021 (grew by just 0.2%) as coronavirus restrictions remained largely unchanged; this follows negative 2.5% growth in January 2021.
Overall, in February 2021, consumer-facing services were 18.6% below pre-pandemic levels (February 2020), while all other services were 7% below pre-pandemic levels.
The production sector grew in February 2021, by 1.0%. This was mainly because of manufacturing output picking up for the first time since November 2020, as the manufacture of motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers grew following contraction in the previous two months.
The construction sector saw growth of 1.6% in February 2021, driven by both new work and repair and maintenance.
Exports of goods to the EU showed some recovery in February 2021
13 April 2021
Total exports of goods, excluding non-monetary gold and other precious metals, increased by 9.9% in February 2021, partially recovering from the substantial January falls. This increase was driven by a 46.6% increase in exports to the EU, while exports to non-EU countries fell by 10.5%. Total imports of goods increased by 8.8% in February 2021, with a 7.3% and 10.2% increase in imports from EU countries and non-EU countries respectively.
Goods imports and exports to the EU increased in February 2021
EU and non-EU goods imports and exports, excluding non-monetary gold and other precious metals, with EU and non-EU countries, February 2019 to February 2021
Total imports of chemicals increased by 19.5% in February 2021. Where the UK would commonly import more from EU countries in such commodities, in February 2021, increased imports of chemicals were driven by non-EU countries. November and December of 2020 saw stockpiling of goods, particularly chemicals, from the EU in preparation for the end of the transition period, and businesses may still be using up these stocks before importing more.
Increased exports of goods were largely seen in machinery and transport equipment, and chemicals, to the EU. The 41.8% increase in exports of machinery and transport equipment to the EU was driven by a rise in exports of cars. Demand for UK vehicles remains high in the EU, which is still the UK’s largest car buyer despite the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic challenges.
The total trade deficit for February 2021, excluding non-monetary gold and other precious metals, widened by £0.5 billion to £1.4 billion, with imports increasing by £2.9 billion and exports increasing by £2.3 billion.