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 5 March 2021.

Jobs with fewer key workers and less ability to work from home were furloughed at a higher rate in April 2020

5 March 2021

These jobs, which were most vulnerable to reduced hours or pay during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, also had lower average wages compared with other occupations. 

Jobs classified as highly vulnerable, based on whether or not they were classed as key workers and their ability to work from home, had on average the lowest pay – a median of £11.23 an hour. Jobs in this category included domestic and cleaning staff.

Medium-vulnerability occupations, such as retail workers and administration roles, had a median pay of £14.31 an hour.

Low-vulnerability occupations, which include key workers such as nurses and teachers, and also jobs that can be easily carried out from home such as programmers and financial managers had a median pay of £17.91 an hour.   

Jobs in the high-vulnerability category also made up the majority of jobs paid £9.12 an hour or less, considered low pay.

Further analysis is presented in Which jobs are most likely to have seen a drop in pay during the pandemic?

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Almost half of businesses reported decreasing turnover

4 March 2021

Of currently trading UK businesses, 44% reported a negative impact on their turnover compared with what is normally expected for this time of year.

According to initial results from Wave 25 of the Business Insights and Conditions Survey (BICS) for the period 8 to 21 February 2021, 12% of currently trading businesses reported their turnover had decreased by more than 50%, 13% reported a decrease by 20% to 50%, and 20% reported a decrease of up to 20%.

In the same period less than 1% of currently trading businesses reported an increase in turnover of more than 50%; 2% reported an increase of 20% to 50%, and 6% reported an increase of up to 20%; 39% reported no change in turnover.

In other faster indicators this week, there was an average of 344 daily ship visits in the week ending 28 February 2021, an increase of 4% from the previous week but 8% lower than the same period a year ago according to exactEarth.

Retail footfall in the UK was at 43% of its level in the equivalent period of 2020 in the week to 27 February 2021, an increase of 5 percentage points from last week, according to Springboard.

Analysis|Data

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The coronavirus (COVID-19) accounted for 14% of sickness absence since April 2020

3 March 2021

The sickness absence rate in the UK (the proportion of total hours lost as a result of sickness or injury to total hours worked) has fallen to 1.8% in 2020, the lowest level since 1995, when current records began.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) accounted for 14.0% of all occurrences of sickness absence since April 2020.

The main reason for being absent from work remained minor illness, such as coughs and colds.

Our analysis shows the coronavirus pandemic has affected sickness absence data in a number of ways.

While the virus may have led to additional sickness absence, measures such as furloughing, social distancing, shielding and increased homeworking appear to have helped reduce other causes of absence, allowing the general downward trend to continue.

Analysis | Data

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The proportion of businesses’ workforce on furlough leave increased to 20% in early February

25 February 2021

The proportion of businesses’ workforce on furlough leave increased from 11% in early December 2020 to 20% in early February 2021 (which equates to approximately 6.5 million people).

This remains lower than during the first national lockdown, when comparable estimates suggested that 30% of businesses’ workforce were on furlough leave in early June 2020 and unweighted estimates showed 31% on furlough in late April 2020.

For information, these figures from Business Insights and Conditions Survey (BICS), are not consistent with employment estimates from Labour Market Statistics as these are based on different sources over different time periods. Additionally, the BICS proportions do not include the public sector, financial sector and parts of agriculture.

Meanwhile, the percentage of businesses currently trading has remained stable since the start of 2021 when new coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions were introduced, at 72% in mid-February 2021, similar to levels seen in early July 2020. This is compared with 84% of businesses currently trading in mid-December 2020.

The other service activities industry had the lowest percentage of businesses currently trading, at 19%. This was primarily due to the temporary closure of businesses in the hairdressing and other beauty treatments industry.

The accommodation and food service activities industry and the arts, entertainment and recreation industry were the other industries where 50% or less of its businesses were currently trading, at 38% and 50% respectively.

Analysis | Data

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There is a large increase in the unemployment rate, while the employment rate continues to fall

23 February 2021

Early estimates for January 2021 indicate that there were 28.3 million payrolled employees, a fall of 2.5% or 730,000 people, compared with the same period of the previous year. Compared with the previous month, the number of payrolled employees increased by 0.3% - equivalent to 83,000 people. Since February 2020, the number of payrolled employees has fallen by 726,000; however, the larger falls were seen at the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Data from our Labour Force Survey shows the unemployment rate continued to increase, while the employment rate continued to fall. Labour Force Survey (LFS) responses are weighted to official population projections. As the current projections are 2018-based they are based on demographic trends that pre-date the COVID-19 pandemic. Rates published from the LFS remain robust; however, levels and changes in levels should be used with caution.

In the three months to December, the unemployment rate continued to increase while the employment rate continued to fall

UK employment, unemployment and economic inactivity rates, seasonally adjusted, between October to December 2005 and October to December 2020

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The number of job vacancies in November 2020 to January 2021 was 26% lower than a year ago. This is an improvement on the position in summer 2020 when vacancies were down by nearly 60% year on year, but the rate of improvement has slowed in the past few months. Further restrictions and national lockdowns recently have had an impact on vacancies in some industries more than others, most notably the accommodation and food services industry.

Although total hours worked continued to increase from the low levels in the previous quarter, this increase slowed in the latest quarter.

The number of people temporarily away from work has fallen since its peak in April and May 2020, although it has increased slightly in November and December. The number of people away from work because of the pandemic and receiving no pay has also fallen since the start of the pandemic but risen slightly over the last two months.

Annual growth in average employee pay continued to strengthen; the growth is driven in part by compositional effects of a fall in the number and proportion of lower-paid employee jobs, and by increased bonuses, which had been postponed earlier in the year.

Analysis | Data

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Employee growth has fallen more sharply in younger age groups

23 February 2021

Early estimates for January 2021 indicate that there were 28.3 million payrolled employees, a fall of 2.5% or 730,000 people, compared with the same period of the previous year.

In January 2021, 726,000 fewer people were in payrolled employment when compared with February 2020. Of the 726,000 decrease in payrolled employees between February 2020 and January 2021, 425,000 (58.5%) were younger than 25.

Since February 2020, annual employee growth has fallen to negative 33.2% for those aged under 18 years and negative 8.5% for those aged 18 to 24 years. These two groups have had the largest falls in employees in relative terms since the onset of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Analysis | Data

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