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 headlines23 July 2021
- There is still wide divergence in levels of productivity around the UK
- Fuel sales rise and retail sales move more offline
This page was last updated at 09:30 on 23 July 2021.
There is still wide divergence in levels of productivity around the UK
23 July 2021
Over the period 2010 to 2019, the areas which have seen relatively large increases in labour productivity, measured in gross value added (GVA) per hour worked, included Outer London – West and North West and Hereford, Worcestershire and Warwickshire, using the international Territorial Level (ITL) 2 regions. By contrast, places in which productivity has declined include Inner London – East, and Dorset and Somerset.
In 2019, labour productivity in 50 of the 168 International Territorial Level 3 subregions in Great Britain was above the UK average; the top four were all in London, followed by North Hampshire, Berkshire, and Swindon.
Tower Hamlets in London had the highest productivity of all ITL3 subregions in Great Britain, and Powys in Wales the lowest
Nominal GVA per hour worked for all ITL3 subregions in Great Britain grouped by ITL1 regions/countries, smoothed, 2019, UK=100
Experimental local authority productivity data were published for the first time in 2020. This is the lowest level geography for which data are published, dividing the UK into 374 local authorities. These data show that productivity in Great Britain, measured by gross value added (GVA) per hour worked, were highest in Runnymede, Hounslow, Tower Hamlets, and Elmbridge, while the lowest levels were seen in Powys, Richmondshire, and Wyre Forest.
Fuel sales rise and retail sales move more offline
23 July 2021
Automotive fuel sales volumes increased 2.3% in the month to June 2021 as people continued to increase their amount of travel, while the proportion of online retail sales dipped in favour of physical stores.
Retail sales volumes in the three months to June 2021 were 12.2% higher than in the previous three months, largely driven by particularly strong sales in April when non-essential retail reopened.
The proportion of retail sales made online remains much higher than before the pandemic, but dropped in June to 26.7%, down from 28.4% in May.
Overall, retail sales volumes in the month to June 2021 rose 0.5%, and are now 9.5% higher than their pre-pandemic levels (compared with February 2020).
Food stores were the biggest contributor to that monthly increase (up 4.2%), anecdotally linked to the start of the Euro 2020 football championship. Non-food stores reported a fall in sales volumes over the month of 1.7%.
Online job adverts 30% higher than February 2020 average
22 July 2021
The volume of online job adverts on 16 July 2021 had increased across all UK countries and English regions from the previous week, bringing the total UK volume to 130% of its February 2020 average.
This is 7 percentage points higher than the volume of online job adverts seen in the equivalent week of 2019, and is considerably higher than the volume seen in the same week of 2020, according to data from Adzuna.
On 16 July 2021, the total volume of online job adverts was at 130% of its February 2020 average level, 7 percentage points higher than that seen in the equivalent week of 2019
Volume of online job adverts by category, index: 100 = February 2020 average, 4 January 2019 to 16 July 2021, non-seasonally adjusted
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.
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.
Just three of 28 job advert categories were below their February 2020 average levels in the latest week. These were "energy, oil and gas", "legal" and "graduate", at 87%, 95% and 99% of their February 2020 average levels, respectively.
The highest performing category relative to its pre-pandemic level remained the "transport/logistics/warehouse" category, at 302% of its February 2020 average level. This is a 153% increase since 8 January 2021 and is substantially higher than the number of adverts seen for this category in the equivalent weeks of 2019 and 2020.
June borrowing the second highest on record, behind 2020
21 July 2021
In June 2021, the UK public sector borrowed £22.8 billion, the second highest June borrowing on record. Although this was £5.5 billion less than the £28.2 billion borrowed in June 2020, it is still £15.8 billion more than that of June 2019.
Borrowing makes up the shortfall between spending by the government and other public sector organisations and income, such as taxes.
Central government receipts were £62.2 billion in June 2021, £9.5 billion more than in June 2020, while central government spending increased by £2.5 billion to £84.1 billion in the same period.
In June 2021, the central government debt interest payments were £8.7 billion, £6.0 billion higher than the same period last year. This increase was mainly due to movements in the Retail Price Index to which index-linked gilts are pegged.
The cost of the government’s coronavirus job support schemes in June were £2.4 billion, £6.2 billion less than a year earlier. These schemes are scheduled to close in September 2021.
This month the UK made its first payment to the EU under the withdrawal agreement of £0.8 billion. We expect further similar payments to be made in the coming months.
Borrowing in the financial year-to-June 2021 was £69.5 billion, £49.8 billion less than the £119.3 billion borrowed in the same period last year and £19.0 billion less than the official forecast.
Expressed as a ratio of gross domestic product (GDP), public sector net borrowing in the financial year ending (FYE) March 2021 was 14.2%, the highest such ratio since the end of World War Two, when it was 15.2% in FYE March 1946.
The recent substantial increase in borrowing has led to sharp increase in public sector net debt which currently stands at 99.7% of GDP, the highest ratio since the 102.5% recorded in March 1961.
98% of single-site businesses in Wales were trading in early July
20 July 2021
Wales had the highest percentage of single-site businesses that were open in early July 2021 (98%), according to the latest subnational estimates from the Business Insights and Conditions Survey (BICS).
Scotland reported the lowest percentage of single-site businesses trading out of the four UK nations (84%).
In line with easing coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions, England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland all saw a fall in the reported proportion of their single-site businesses' workforce on furlough leave from late April to late June 2021.
Among English regions, London reported the highest percentage of its workforce on furlough at the end of June 2021 (10%).
Our map highlights the impacts of COVID-19 on single-site businesses across UK regions, using the following measures:
- Proportion of businesses currently trading
- Proportion of workforce on furlough leave
- Proportion of businesses reporting a decrease in turnover compared with normal for the time of year
The vast majority of single-site businesses are open across different parts of the UK
Percentages of single-site businesses, broken down by region, UK, 2 November 2020 to 11 July 2021
This analysis is based on UK businesses with a single business site. Overall, single-site businesses represent 98% of all businesses, and approximately half of total UK turnover and employment.
All current BICS subnational estimates should be treated as experimental estimates.
Hospitality saw signs of recovery in Spring 2021, but business confidence still remains low
19 July 2021
In May 2020, turnover fell to £1.2 billion but has since recovered to £6.9 billion in May 2021. This is still behind the May 2019 value of £9.2 billion.
Consumer spending data by Revolut show that in spring 2021, spending in the hospitality sector reached its highest level since summer 2020. However, data from Vocalink show that increased consumer spending has not yet fed through to suppliers. The total value of payments from food and drink businesses to their suppliers and contractors in May 2021 was only 51% of the values in February 2020.
Trends in the labour market reflect those of industry turnover. Since early April 2021, the number of people on furlough has been declining and fell to its lowest level of 0.6 million in late May 2021. There have also been increases in the number of payrolled employees and average hours worked, although these remain below pre-pandemic levels.
Despite signs of recovery in the hospitality industry, business confidence remains low. All hospitality sub-sectors report lower levels of confidence that their business will survive the next three months, compared with the all-industry average.