Economic activity and social change in the UK, real-time indicators: 29 July 2021

Early experimental data and analysis on economic activity and social change in the UK. These faster indicators are created using rapid response surveys, novel data sources, and experimental methods.

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Cyswllt:
Email Issie Davies

Dyddiad y datganiad:
29 July 2021

Cyhoeddiad nesaf:
5 August 2021

1. Main points

  • In the week to 25 July 2021, the seven-day average number of UK daily flights increased by 17% from the previous week to the highest level seen since the week to 22 March 2020 (the day before the first national lockdown was implemented across the UK) (EUROCONTROL). See Section 3.

  • In the week to 22 July 2021, the aggregate CHAPS-based indicator of credit and debit card purchases increased by 2 percentage points from the previous week, to 94% of its February 2020 average (Bank of England CHAPS data). See Section 4.

  • On 23 July 2021, the volume of total online job adverts had increased slightly by 1% and was at 131% of its February 2020 average level; the highest weekly increase was seen in the "wholesale and retail" category, which rose by 8% over the latest week (Adzuna). See Section 5.

  • In the week to 26 July 2021, the seven-day average estimate of seated diners in Manchester increased substantially by 23 percentage points from the previous week; this follows the easing of most legal restrictions in England on 19 July 2021 (OpenTable). See Section 6.

  • In the week to 24 July 2021, overall retail footfall in the UK was at 77% of the level seen in the equivalent week of 2019; across retail locations, shopping centres saw the largest week-on-week increase of 4% (Springboard). See Section 7.

  • The percentage of businesses currently trading has increased steadily from 71% in January 2021 to 88% in mid to late July 2021 (Business Insights and Conditions Survey (BICS) 12 July to 25 July 2021). See Section 8.

  • The proportion of adults who left their home and wore a face covering was 95% in the latest week (unchanged from the previous week) (Opinions and Lifestyle Survey 21 to 25 July 2021). See Section 9.

  • The volume of all motor vehicle traffic on Monday 26 July 2021 was at 98% of the level seen in the first week of February 2020; this is broadly similar to the previous week (Department for Transport). See Section 10.

  • There were 13,166 company incorporations in the week to 23 July 2021, a 10% increase from the previous week (11,996) and 8% higher than the equivalent week in 2019 (12,231) (Companies House). See the accompanying dataset.

  • There were 5,397 voluntary dissolution applications in the week to 23 July 2021, a 5% decrease from the previous week (5,654), but 12% higher than the equivalent week in 2019 (4,830) (Companies House). See the accompanying dataset.

  • In the week ending 25 July 2021, the average count of traffic camera activity for "pedestrians and cyclists" in Greater Manchester saw a weekly increase of 28%; this was primarily driven by increased activity over the weekend (Fri to Sun), having risen by 56% when compared with the previous weekend (Transport for Greater Manchester). See the accompanying dataset.

  • From March to May 2021, average counts of vehicles under 5.2m in length (cars) on the Strategic Roads Network around English ports increased by 17 percentage points to 86% of their level in February 2020; in this bulletin, vehicle flows around UK ports data for April and May 2021 have been added to the accompanying dataset (Highways England).

  • In Quarter 2 (April to June) 2021, a net 7% of 260,150 firms reported an increase in turnover at the total industry level when compared with the previous quarter; in this bulletin, Value Added Tax (VAT) turnover and expenditure diffusion indices for Quarter 2 (April to June) 2021 have been added to the accompanying dataset (Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC)).

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Results presented in this bulletin are experimental and may be subject to revision.

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2. Latest indicators at a glance

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3. UK flight data

These data are daily flight figures from the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation (EUROCONTROL). Daily flight numbers for the UK alongside other countries are available in EUROCONTROL's dashboard. EUROCONTROL is a pan-European, civil-military organisation dedicated to supporting European aviation. Its Aviation Intelligence and Performance Review Unit provides independent collection and validation of air navigation services performance-related data and intelligence gathering.

These flights data include international arrivals and departures to and from the UK (including Crown Dependencies) and domestic UK flights, but exclude overflights (flights that pass over UK territory). They capture all flight movements that operate under Instrumental Flight Rules (IFR), where the pilot uses instruments in the flight deck to control, guide and adjust the plane. This includes commercial flights carrying passengers and cargo as well as non-commercial flights such as private and military flights.

Data from EUROCONTROL do not include information on the volume of passengers or cargo carried on UK flights. Especially in the context of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, flights might not be operating at full capacity and therefore trends in passengers and cargo will differ from trends in flights presented here.

In the week ending 25 July 2021, the seven-day average number of UK daily flights was 2,877. This is a 17% increase from the previous week, and the largest weekly rise since the Bank holiday weekend in May (week ending 30 May 2021). This is also the highest weekly average number of flights seen since the week ending 22 March 2020 (the day before the first national lockdown was implemented in the UK).

The average number of flights in the latest week was 43% of the level seen in the equivalent week in 2019; this is up 6 percentage points from the previous week when the level was 37%. In the latest week, when compared with the equivalent week in 2020 (when UK travel corridors were still in place), the seven-day average number of daily flights was at 147% of its 2020 level; this is down 3 percentage points from the previous week when it was at 150%.

The full data time series available for UK flights can be found in the accompanying dataset, which contains daily flight numbers and the rolling seven-day averages.

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4. UK spending on debit and credit cards

These data series are experimental faster indicators for estimating UK spending on credit and debit cards. They track the daily CHAPS payments made by credit and debit card payment processors to around 100 major UK retail corporates. These payments are the proceeds of recent credit and debit card transactions made by customers at their stores, both via physical and online platforms. More information on the indicator is provided in the accompanying methodology article.

Companies are allocated to one of four categories based on their primary business:

  • "staples" refers to companies that sell essential goods that households need to purchase, such as food and utilities

  • "work-related" refers to companies providing public transport or selling petrol

  • "delayable" refers to companies selling goods whose purchase could be delayed, such as clothing or furnishings 

  • "social" refers to spending on travel and eating out

Figure 2 shows changes in the value of CHAPS payments received by large UK corporates from their credit and debit card processors, "merchant acquirers".

In the week to 22 July 2021, the CHAPS-based indicator of credit and debit card purchases in aggregate increased slightly by 2 percentage points from the previous week to 94% of its February 2020 average level. The "work-related'', "staple" and "delayable" spending categories rose by 8, 4 and 3 percentage points, respectively. Meanwhile, "social'' spending fell by 3 percentage points from the previous week.

In the latest week, "work-related" and "staple" spending remained above their February 2020 average levels, at 118% and 106%, respectively. Conversely, "delayable" and "social" spending were at 88% and 82% of their February 2020 average levels, respectively.

Since Step 2 of the government roadmap was implemented, which saw notable lifting of restrictions in England from 12 April 2021 and other UK countries soon after, "work-related" and "social" spending have both continued to rise steadily. They have each increased, by 33 and 10 percentage points respectively, between the week to 8 April 2021 and the latest week. "Delayable" spending fell back after an initial surge as Step 2 came into effect but has since stabilised to 25 percentage points higher than the level seen in the week to 8 April 2021.

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5. Online job adverts

Job adverts by category

These figures are experimental estimates of online job adverts provided by Adzuna, an online job search engine, by category, by UK country and English region. The number of job adverts over time is an indicator of the demand for labour. The Adzuna categories used do not correspond to Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) categories, so these values are not directly comparable with the Office for National Statistics' (ONS) Vacancy Survey.

Figure 3: On 23 July 2021, the total volume of online job adverts remained substantially higher than pre-pandemic levels at 131% of its February 2020 average level

Volume of online job adverts by category, index: 100 = February 2020 average, 4 January 2019 to 23 July 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 the data

According to Adzuna, on 23 July 2021, the total volume of online job adverts in the UK saw a very slight increase of 1% when compared with the previous week (16 July 2021). Of the 28 categories, 16 saw week-on-week growth in the number of online job adverts, the largest of which was in the "wholesale and retail" category, which increased by 8%. The volume of online job adverts in this category has now more than doubled since the week ending 16 April 2021, following the reopening of non-essential retail in England and Wales on 12 April 2021. In the latest week, the largest weekly decrease in the number of online job adverts was in "travel and tourism", which fell by 5%.

On 23 July 2021, the total volume of online job adverts relative to its February 2020 average level remained broadly unchanged from the previous week at 131%. Of the 28 categories, and for the third consecutive week, the only three that were below their February 2020 average levels were "graduate", "legal" and "energy, oil and gas" at 99%, 93% and 88%, respectively.

Having increased substantially over the first half of 2021, the "transport/logistics/warehouse" category remains the highest performing category relative to its pre-pandemic levels at 306% of the average volume seen in February 2020 in the latest week. Since 4 June 2021, it has stayed relatively consistent at around three times the average volume recorded in February 2020.

Job adverts by region

Figure 4: On 23 July 2021, the volume of online job adverts remained higher than their February 2020 average levels across all UK countries and English regions

Volume of online job adverts by UK countries and English regions, index: 100 = February 2020 average, 7 February 2020 to 23 July 2021, non-seasonally adjusted

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On 23 July 2021, the volume of online job adverts had increased across all UK countries and English regions when compared with the previous week (16 July 2021), except for in Northern Ireland and London where they fell by 3% and 1%, respectively. This is the third consecutive week-on-week fall in the number of online job adverts in Northern Ireland. Conversely, Scotland, the East Midlands and the North East of England each saw a slight weekly increase of 2% to their respective number of online job adverts.

In the latest week, the volume of online job adverts remained above their February 2020 average levels in all UK countries and English regions. The highest of these was in the North East, the East Midlands and Northern Ireland at 179%, 161% and 155% of their February 2020 average levels, respectively. Since 9 April 2021 the North East has been the region with the highest number of online job adverts relative to its pre-pandemic levels.

Meanwhile, relative to its February 2020 average level, the volume of online job adverts remained lowest in London, where the corresponding figure was 112% on 23 July 2021 (unchanged from the previous week). Despite this, the volume of online job adverts in London has been gradually climbing throughout 2021 and exceeds its pre-pandemic (February 2020 average) level.

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6. OpenTable seated diners

OpenTable is a provider of data for online restaurant reservations, with daily data for the UK, London and Manchester being publicly available in its The state of the industry dashboard. These data show the impact of recent events and restrictions on the hospitality industry using a sample of restaurants on the OpenTable network across all channels, that is, online reservations, phone reservations, and walk-ins.

According to OpenTable, in the week to 26 July 2021, the seven-day average estimate of UK seated diners increased by 3 percentage points when compared with the previous week to 119% of its level in the equivalent week of 2019. In London, during the same week, the seven-day average estimate of seated diners remained broadly unchanged from the previous week at 70% of its level in the equivalent week of 2019. In comparison, the equivalent figure for Manchester was 125%, having risen substantially by 23 percentage points from the previous week.

The rises in seated diner estimates in the latest week follow the lifting of most legal restrictions in England on 19 July 2021. This latest week to 26 July 2021 is the first week where the average estimates of seated diners relative to their 2019 levels for the UK, London and Manchester have all risen since the peak in the week of the spring bank holiday (week to 31 May 2021). Their respective levels in that week were at 173%, 105% and 232% of the equivalent week in 2019.

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7. Retail footfall

National retail footfall

National footfall figures are supplied by Springboard, a provider of data on customer activity. They measure the following for overall UK retail footfall, as well as by high street, retail park, and shopping centre categories:

  • daily retail footfall as a percentage of its level on the same day of the equivalent week of 2019; for example, Saturday 24 July 2021 is compared with Saturday 20 July 2019

  • total weekly retail footfall as a percentage of its level in the equivalent week of 2019

  • the percentage change in weekly footfall compared with the previous week; for example, Week 29 of 2021 is compared with Week 28 of 2021

  • Springboard's weekly data are defined over a seven-day period running from Sunday to Saturday; Week 29 of 2021 therefore refers to the period Sunday 18 July 2021 to Saturday 24 July 2021

According to Springboard, in the week to 24 July 2021, the volume of overall retail footfall in the UK increased by 3%, compared with the previous week (week to 17 July 2021). This increase was driven in-part by a notable increase in retail footfall across the UK on the 19 July 2021, the day that most legal restrictions in England were lifted. In the latest week, footfall at shopping centres and high streets saw weekly increases of 4% and 3%, respectively, while footfall at retail parks increased by 2%.

In the same week to 24 July 2021, overall retail footfall was at 77% of the level seen in the equivalent week of 2019. Comparing retail locations, footfall at retail parks remained the strongest relative to pre-pandemic levels, at 96% of its equivalent 2019 level. Meanwhile, the corresponding figures for high streets and shopping centres were 71% and 69%, respectively. Throughout most of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, footfall at retail parks has consistently been strongest when compared with other retail locations, relative to their 2019 levels.

Retail footfall has remained relatively stable in recent months, relative to its 2019 level, following a sharp rise in footfall volumes coinciding with Step 2 of the government roadmap, which came into effect on 12 April 2021. Overall retail footfall remains notably higher in the latest week than it was then, up by 33 percentage points between the week to 10 April 2021 (just before Step 2 was implemented) and the latest week. Similarly, footfall levels at shopping centres, high streets and retail parks remain substantially higher than for that date, up by 37, 35 and 22 percentage points, respectively. Footfall at retail parks was stronger in April 2021 than it is now for shopping centres and high streets.

Regional retail footfall

According to Springboard, in the week to 24 July 2021, retail footfall saw week-on-week percentage increases in seven of the ten UK countries and English regions, the largest of which was in Northern Ireland where it rose by 9% over the week. Scotland and Wales saw no change in footfall volumes over the week, while Greater London saw a very slight weekly increase of 1%.

In the same week, relative to the levels seen in the equivalent week of 2019, retail footfall was strongest in the North & Yorkshire, the East of England and the South West of England, at 81%, 80% and 80%, respectively. In contrast, retail footfall was weakest in the East Midlands and Greater London, each at 75% of the levels seen in the equivalent week of 2019.

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8. Business impacts and insights

The percentage of currently trading businesses reporting a decrease in turnover has steadily declined from 65% in early June 2020 to 29% in early July 2021; this is the lowest percentage recorded since comparable estimates began in June 2020.

Final data for Wave 35 (reference period 28 June to 11 July 2021) of the Business Impact of COVID-19 Survey can be found in Business insights and impacts on the UK economy: 29 July 2021.

Further information can also be found in the Business insights and impact on the UK economy dataset.

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9. Social impact of coronavirus (COVID-19)

This section includes some provisional results from the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN) covering the period 21 to 25 July 2021. The survey went out to 5,996 adults in Great Britain and had a response rate of 63%. Further information to help understand the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on people, households, and communities in Great Britain will be available in Coronavirus and the social impacts on Great Britain, due to be published on 30 July 2021.

Travelling to work

In the period 21 to 25 July 2021, the proportion of working adults in Great Britain who in the past seven days:

  • travelled to work (either exclusively or in combination with working from home) decreased slightly by 3 percentage points to 61%
  • worked exclusively from home remained broadly similar to the previous week at 22%
  • neither travelled to work nor worked from home was broadly similar to the previous week at 16%

Shopping

Of the 94% of adults who reported leaving home in the past seven days, the proportion that did so to shop for food and medicine was broadly similar to the previous week at 83%.

The proportion of these adults who shopped for things other than food and medicine in the last seven days was also broadly similar to the previous week at 40%.

Face coverings

Of the 94% of adults who reported leaving home in the past seven days, the proportion that did so and wore a face covering was unchanged from the previous week, at 95%. Further breakdowns such as the situation when a face covering was worn (for example, while shopping) and by country, will be available in Coronavirus and the social impacts on Great Britain published on 30 July 2021.

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10. Road traffic in Great Britain

According to Department for Transport (DfT) non-seasonally adjusted road traffic data, the volume of all motor vehicle traffic on Monday 26 July 2021 was at 98% of the level seen on the Monday of the first week of February 2020. This is broadly unchanged compared with the previous week (Monday 19 July 2021).

On Monday 26 July 2021, light commercial vehicle and car traffic each remained broadly similar to the previous week, at 108% and 94% of the levels seen in the first week of February 2020, respectively. Heavy goods vehicles traffic saw a slight decrease of 3 percentage points over this period to 104% of the level seen in February 2020.

Figure 8: The volume of motor vehicle traffic on Monday 26 July 2021 was at 98% of its level in the first week of February 2020

Daily road traffic index: 100 = same traffic as the equivalent day of the week in the first week of February 2020, 1 March 2020 to 26 July 2021, non-seasonally adjusted

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Notes:
  1. The blue shaded areas refer to periods when restrictions across the UK were in effect. In order, these were: first national lockdown in the UK (23 March 2020) to easing of restrictions with non-essential shops reopening in England (15 June 2020); second lockdown in England (5 November 2020) to lockdown being replaced with three-tier system in England (2 December 2020); third lockdown announced in Scotland and England (4 January 2021) to "stay at home" restrictions ending in England (29 March 2021).

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The daily DfT estimates are indexed to the first week of February 2020 and the comparison is with the same day of the week. The data provided are useful as an indication of traffic change rather than actual traffic volumes. More information on the methods, quality and economic analysis for these indicators can be found in the DfT methodology article.

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11. Data

UK spending on credit and debit cards
Dataset | Released 29 July 2021
Experimental indicator for monitoring UK retail purchases derived from the Bank of England's CHAPS data.

Shipping indicators
Dataset | Released 17 June 2021
Experimental weekly and daily ship visits dataset covering UK ports.

Traffic camera activity
Dataset | Released 29 July 2021
Experimental daily traffic camera counts data for busyness indices covering the UK.

Online job advert estimates
Dataset | Released 29 July 2021
Experimental job advert indices covering the UK online job market.

Company Incorporations and Voluntary Dissolutions
Dataset | Released 29 July 2021
The number of weekly Companies House Incorporations and Voluntary Dissolution applications accepted.

Daily UK flights
Dataset | Released 29 July 2021
Experimental daily UK flight numbers and rolling seven-day average, including flights to, from, and within the UK

Online weekly price changes
Dataset | Released 1 July 2021
Experimental estimates of online price changes for a selection of food and drink products from several large UK retailers.

Value Added Tax
Dataset | Released 29 July 2021
Value Added Tax (VAT) turnover and expenditure diffusion indexes and new VAT reporters using data from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) VAT returns.

Business insights and impact on the UK economy
Dataset | Released 29 July 2021
Responses from the Business Insights and Conditions Survey (BICS).

Vehicle flows around ports
Dataset | Released 29 July 2021
Monthly data showing vehicle flows around major ports in England. Contains average 15-minute sensor counts by size of vehicle, and average speeds.

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12. Glossary

Faster indicator

A faster indicator provides insights into economic activity using close-to-real-time big data, administrative data sources, rapid response surveys or Experimental Statistics, which represent useful economic and social concepts.

Company incorporations

Incorporations are when a company is added to the Companies House register of limited companies. This can also include an existing business applying to become a limited company, when it was not one before.

Voluntary dissolution applications

A voluntary dissolution application is when a company applies to begin dissolution proceedings. As such, they effectively chose to be removed from the Companies House register. For a company to be eligible to voluntarily dissolve, it should not have completed any trading activity for a period of three months

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13. Measuring the data

UK Coronavirus Restrictions

A full overview of coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions for each of the four UK constituent countries can be found here:

These restrictions should be considered when interpreting the data featured throughout this bulletin.

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14. Strengths and limitations

Information on the strengths and limitations of the indicators in this bulletin is available in the Coronavirus and the latest indicators of the UK economy and society methodology.

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Manylion cyswllt ar gyfer y Bwletin ystadegol

Issie Davies
faster.indicators@ons.gov.uk
Ffôn: +44 (0)1633 651583