Economic activity and social change in the UK, real-time indicators: 2 December 2021

Early data and analysis for UK economy and society. Includes activity and change in business, spending, travel and jobs using rapid-response surveys, novel data sources and experimental methods.

This is the latest release. View previous releases

Cyswllt:
Email Emelia D’Silva-Parker

Dyddiad y datganiad:
2 December 2021

Cyhoeddiad nesaf:
9 December 2021

1. Main points

  • Shelf availability of items between 26 and 29 November 2021 was lowest for “crisps (multipack)”, with 24% of this item’s availability marked as “none” or “low”; shelf availability was highest for the “beer” category, as 70% of this item was recorded as having “high” availability (Kantar Public). Section 3.

  • The system average price (SAP) of gas increased by 8% in the week to 28 November 2021, its third consecutive week-on-week increase, and it is now at levels broadly similar to the highs seen in early October 2021 (National Grid). Section 4.

  • In the week to 28 November 2021 average daily ship visits and daily cargo and tanker ship visits decreased by 8% and 6% from the previous week, respectively; this was driven by adverse weather conditions during Storm Arwen (exactEarth). Section 5.

  • In the week ending 28 November 2021, the seasonally adjusted average count of traffic camera activity for pedestrians and cyclists in London decreased by 16%, while in the North East it fell by 14%; this may in part have been because of adverse weather conditions towards the latter end of the week caused by Storm Arwen (Transport for London, North East Traffic Cameras). See the accompanying dataset.

  • The volume of motor vehicle traffic on Monday 29 November 2021 was at 92% of its level in the first week of February 2020, a decrease of 5 percentage points from the previous week (Department for Transport). Section 6.

  • The total volume of online job adverts on 26 November 2021 increased by 2% to 146% of its February 2020 average level; the largest weekly increases were in “catering and hospitality” and “travel and tourism”, rising by 21% and 16%, respectively (Adzuna). Section 7.

  • Overall retail footfall in the UK rose by 2% in the week to 27 November 2021 to 83% of the level seen in the equivalent week of 2019 (Springboard). Section 8.

  • In the week to 25 November 2021, the aggregate CHAPS-based indicator of credit and debit card purchases increased by 3 percentage points from the previous week, to 106% of its February 2020 average (Bank of England CHAPS data). Section 9.

  • The seven-day average number of UK daily flights was 3,195 in the week ending 28 November 2021, this is 65% of the level seen in the equivalent week of 2019 (EUROCONTROL). Section 10.

  • Transactions at Pret A Manger stores in the week ending 25 November 2021 remained lowest in London airport stores, at 78% of the January 2020 average level (Pret A Manger). Section 11.

  • The proportion of working adults in Great Britain who reported traveling to work (both exclusively and in combination with working from home) in the past seven days increased slightly to 71%; this is the highest percentage seen since the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN) began (during the first stay at home phase of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic) (Opinions and Lifestyle Survey, 18 to 28 November 2021). Section 12.

  • The seven-day average estimate of UK seated diners fell by 6 percentage points in the week to 29 November 2021, to 111% of the level in the equivalent week of 2019; this is the lowest this figure has been since the week ending 17 May 2021 (OpenTable). Section 13.

  • Of businesses not permanently stopped trading, 14% reported vacancies were more difficult to fill in the last month compared with normal expectations for this time of year, however this rose to 41% for businesses with 10 or more employees; both percentages remained broadly stable compared with October 2021. Business insights and impact on the UK economy: 2 December 2021.

  • There were 13,720 company incorporations in the week to 26 November 2021, a decrease of 8% from the previous week and an increase of 10% from the equivalent week of 2019 (12,520) (Companies House). See the accompanying dataset.

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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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Notes:

  1. Users should note that the break in the available shipping data (from 14 to 19 June 2021) is when the data collection system changed.
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3. Shelf availability of items from UK shops

Shelf availability research for shops across the UK has been undertaken by Kantar Public. Collectors gathered information on a range of items from up to three different stores across multiple locations, recording availability across four categories: "none", "low", "medium", or "high". It is important to note these categories are subjective as they are recorded by individual collectors. The data were collected between 26 and 29 November 2021. This series will be updated weekly.

In the current period (26 to 29 November 2021), the overall proportion of observations for all items recorded as “high” was 54%; this was unchanged from the previous four-day period (19 to 22 November 2021). Observations for all items recorded as “none” or “low” was 9%, also unchanged from the previous period.

Across the four availability categories, the largest proportion of observations recorded as “high” was “beer” at 70%, followed by “potatoes”, “fresh chicken” and “fresh vegetables”, all at 62%. The highest proportion of items with availability recorded as either “none” or “low” was “crisps (multipack)” at 24%, followed by “ibuprofen” and “paracetamol”, both at 16%.

Data for all categories are available in the accompanying dataset.

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4. System average price (SAP) of gas

System average price (SAP) of gas data are available in the Data Item Explorer from the National Grid.

The SAP is the average price of all gas traded through the balancing market. Market participants post bids or offers for volumes of gas as day-ahead and within-day trades. The SAP aggregates the trades conducted on the On-the-Day Commodity Market (OCM). This is the market that the National Grid uses in its role as residual balancer. Other markets exist for wholesale gas trading in Great Britain.

These data can be used to understand the general trend of gas prices within Great Britain. However, they should be treated with caution as these can be subject to extreme within-day trading prices and may skew actual traded prices. It must also be noted that while these prices reflect spot prices on the day, traders can opt for futures contracts where the buyer and the seller agree the market-determined price for gas for a future date. The daily SAP is used to determine the futures price and is therefore a useful indicator of supply constraints and demand pressures.

These data and the accompanying dataset are updated weekly in this bulletin.

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5. Shipping

A changeover in the systems used to collect these data has introduced a level shift in the data time series from 14 June 2021 onwards. Users should not make comparisons between data before and after this date. The data produced prior to the change, for 1 April 2019 to 13 June 2021, can still be compared within that period.

A full methodological review of our current method of data collection is under way and data may be subject to revision once this is complete. We will continue to update the accompanying dataset using the current method until the review is complete.

The average weekly volume of all daily ships and cargo and tanker ship visits fell week-on-week as result of lower activity over the weekend of 26 November 2021, driven by Storm Arwen.

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6. 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 29 November 2021 decreased by 5 percentage points from the previous week. This was 92% of the level seen on the Monday of the first week in February 2020.

Traffic volumes for cars, heavy goods vehicles and light commercial vehicles decreased from the previous week by 6, 5 and 4 percentage points, respectively. They are now at 87%, 105% and 108% of the level seen in the first week of February 2020, respectively. These falls may have been caused by Storm Arwen, as the volume of all motor vehicle traffic on Saturday 27 November saw a decrease of 10 percentage points from the previous week (Saturday 20 November).

Figure 5: The volume of motor vehicle traffic on Monday 29 November 2021 was at 92% of its level in the first week of February 2020, a decrease of 5 percentage points from the previous week

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 29 November 2021, non-seasonally adjusted, Great Britain

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Notes:

  1. The blue shaded areas refer to periods when restrictions across the UK were in effect.

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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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7. 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 6: The total volume of online job adverts grew by 2% to 146% of its February 2020 average level; the largest weekly rises were in “catering and hospitality” (21%) and “travel and tourism” (16%)

Volume of online job adverts by category, index: 100 = February 2020 average, 4 January 2019 to 26 November 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.

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Of the 28 categories, 14 saw an increase in the number of online job adverts, while 10 decreased and four were unchanged when compared with the previous week. The largest week-on-week increases were in “catering and hospitality” and “travel and tourism”, which rose by 21% and 16%, respectively. The largest week-on-week decrease was in “legal”, which fell by 11%. This is the only category below its February 2020 average level.

The highest level of job adverts relative to its February 2020 level continued to be in "transport, logistics and warehouse" at 375%, despite a 2% week-on-week fall.

Job adverts by region

Figure 7: The volume of online job adverts increased in nine of the 12 UK countries and English regions on 26 November 2021

Volume of online job adverts by UK countries and English regions index: 100 = February 2020 average, 4 January 2019 to 26 November 2021, non-seasonally adjusted

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This week the volume of online job adverts increased for 9 of 12 UK countries and English regions following widespread falls in the previous week. The largest week-on-week increases were in the North West, the South East, Scotland and Yorkshire and The Humber, which all rose by 3% from the previous week. London and Northern Ireland showed the only week-on-week decreases, both falling by 2%. The volume of online job adverts in the North East remains unchanged from the previous week.

The volumes of online job adverts in all 12 UK countries and English regions were above their February 2020 levels.

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8. Retail footfall

National retail footfall

National retail 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 27 November 2021 is compared with Saturday 23 November 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 47 of 2021 is compared with Week 46 of 2021

Springboard's weekly data are defined over a seven-day period running from Sunday to Saturday. Week 47 of 2021 therefore refers to the period Sunday 21 November to Saturday 27 November 2021.

Users should note that all quoted figures have been rounded to the nearest integer.

According to Springboard, in the week to 27 November 2021, the volume of overall retail footfall in the UK:

  • for high streets decreased by 2% from the previous week and was 81% of the level seen in the equivalent week of 2019
  • for retail parks increased by 5% from the previous week and was 95% of the level seen in the equivalent week of 2019
  • for shopping centres increased by 7% from the previous week and was 76% of the level seen in the equivalent week of 2019

These were the lowest levels seen compared with the equivalent week of 2019 for all three categories since the week ending 2 October 2021. This was likely driven by adverse weather conditions towards the end of the week as a result of Storm Arwen.

Regional retail footfall

In the week to 27 November 2021, retail footfall saw week-on-week increases in 7 of the 10 UK countries and English regions, the largest of which was in the South West and Scotland where it increased by 5%. Retail footfall was broadly unchanged in the East, the East Midlands, and North and Yorkshire when compared with the previous week.

In the same week, relative to the levels seen in the equivalent week of 2019, retail footfall was strongest in the South West at 88%, followed by Greater London at 87% and the South East at 86%. In contrast, retail footfall was weakest in Northern Ireland and the East Midlands at 76% and 77%, respectively.

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9. UK spending on debit and credit cards

Daily CHAPS-based indicator

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 through 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 10 shows changes in the value of CHAPS payments received by large UK corporates from their credit and debit card processors, "merchant acquirers". 

All spending categories, excluding “social” – which was unchanged – increased in this latest week:

  • “delayable” by 7 percentage points
  • “work-related” by 3 percentage points
  • “staple” by 2 percentage points

In the latest week, “social” spending was below its February 2020 average level at 93%. “Work-related”, “delayable” and “staple” spending were above their February 2020 average levels at 121%, 111% and 108%, respectively. The recent increase in the delayable index coincided with the period around Black Friday.

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10. 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.

The 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 Instrument 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 latest week, the seven-day average number of UK daily flights was 3,195. This is more than double that of the level on 17 May 2021, when international travel was allowed to resume, and the UK government implemented the travel traffic light system.

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

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11. Transactions at Pret A Manger

Pret A Manger is a sandwich and coffee shop franchise chain, operating around 400 stores across the UK. Its transactional data are presented as an index and show total weekly till transactions at Pret A Manger shops as a proportion of the average weekly level in the first four weeks of 2020 (between Friday 3 January and Thursday 30 January 2020). Because of this comparison across the data time series, users should expect an element of seasonality in the data.

More information on the areas featured is available in the Measuring the data section. These data are also made available every Tuesday via Bloomberg.

In the week ending 25 November 2021, transactions at Pret A Manger stores increased in all locations. The largest increase was in Yorkshire, which increased by 7 percentage points compared with the previous week, followed by Manchester where transactions increased by 6 percentage points.

In the latest week, the level of transactions at Pret A Manger stores remained the highest in Yorkshire and London suburb stores, at 168% and 137% of the weekly average level in January 2020, respectively. In contrast, London city stores were the only location where transactions remain below their January 2020 average level at 88%.

The week ending 25 November 2021 saw the highest levels of transactions in London stations since the index began, at 99% of January 2020 level. However, transactions in all transport-related stores remained below the January 2020 average level.

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12. Social impact of coronavirus

This section includes some provisional results from the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN) covering the period 18 to 28 November 2021. The survey went out to 4,498 adults in Great Britain and had a response rate of 68% (3,036 responses). Further information to help understand the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on people, households and communities in Great Britain is available in Coronavirus and the social impacts on Great Britain.

Travelling to work

In the period 18 to 28 November 2021, the proportion of working adults in Great Britain who in the past seven days:

  • travelled to work (both exclusively and in combination with working from home) increased slightly by 4 percentage points from the previous period (3 to 14 November 2021) to 71%
  • worked exclusively from home decreased slightly by 2 percentage points from the previous period to 14%
  • neither travelled to work nor worked from home decreased slightly by 2 percentage points from the previous period to 15%

Shopping

Of the 96% of adults in Great Britain who reported leaving home in the past seven days, the proportion that did so to shop for food and medicine decreased by 4 percentage points from the previous period at 81%.

The proportion of these adults who shopped for things other than food and medicine in the past seven days decreased slightly by 2 percentage points from the previous period at 45%.

Face coverings

Of the 96% of adults in Great Britain who reported leaving home in the past seven days, the proportion that did so and reported wearing a face covering remained broadly similar from the previous period at 84%. Further breakdowns, such as the situation when a face covering was worn (for example, while shopping), and by country, is available in Coronavirus and the social impacts on Great Britain.

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13. OpenTable seated diners

According to OpenTable, in the week to 29 November 2021, the seven-day average estimate of UK seated diners fell 6 percentage points to its lowest level compared with the equivalent week in 2019, since indoor dining reopened in England, Wales and Scotland (17 May 2021).

In the latest week, the seven-day average estimate of seated diners in Manchester and London fell by 7 and 3 percentage points, respectively, to 127% and 82% of the level seen in the equivalent week of 2019.

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14. Data

UK spending on credit and debit cards
Dataset | Released 2 December 2021
Experimental indicator for monitoring UK retail purchases derived from the Bank of England's CHAPS data.

Weekly shipping indicators
Dataset | Released 2 December 2021
Experimental weekly and daily ship visits dataset covering UK ports.

Traffic camera activity
Dataset | Released 2 December 2021
Experimental daily traffic camera counts data for busyness indices covering the UK.

Online job advert estimates
Dataset | Released 2 December 2021
Experimental job advert indices covering the UK online job market.

Company incorporations, voluntary dissolutions and compulsory dissolutions
Dataset | Released 2 December 2021
Weekly dataset showing the number of Companies House incorporations and voluntary dissolutions accepted, and companies placed into compulsory dissolution.

Daily UK flights
Dataset | Released 2 December 2021
Experimental daily UK flight numbers and rolling seven-day average, including flights to, from, and within the UK.

System Average Price (SAP) of gas
Dataset | Released 2 December 2021
Daily and rolling average System Average Price (SAP) of gas traded in the UK.

Shelf availability of items from UK shops
Dataset | Released 2 December 2021
Data provided by Kantar Public, recording item availability of 23 popular products across the UK and English regions.

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15. 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 where an existing business applies to become a limited company, where 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 choose 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.

Compulsory dissolutions

When a company fails to file the required financial accounts and/or confirmation statements, if no contact is received by Companies House following a series of letters to the company and its officers, a first gazette notice is published in the Gazette, a notice of the Registrar's intention to dissolve the company.

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16. 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.

Pret A Manger index

The index shows total weekly till transactions at Pret A Manger stores as a proportion of the companies’ average weekly level in the first four weeks of 2020 (between 3 January 2020 and 30 January 2020).

These data are delivered weekly from Friday to Thursday in a week-ending format.

The index is broken down by region:

  • Yorkshire
  • London: suburban (stores within Greater London but outside zones 1 and 2)
  • London: City (key office areas)
  • London: West End (key retail areas)
  • London: airports (four major airports in London)
  • London: stations (three large train stations in London)
  • Manchester
  • Scotland
  • Regional towns (stores in towns not included in this index)
  • Regional stations (stores in stations in towns not included in this index)

These regions have been selected as in some areas of the UK, there are limited numbers of Pret A Manger stores. For example, at the time of index creation, there were two stores open in Leeds and two in York, leading to these being grouped together as “Yorkshire”.

Wales is omitted from the index as it has a low number of stores. Regional Towns includes shops in towns other than those listed.

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17. 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

Emelia D’Silva-Parker
faster.indicators@ons.gov.uk
Ffôn: +44 1633 455120