GDP monthly estimate, UK: December 2019

Gross domestic product (GDP) measures the value of goods and services produced in the UK. It estimates the size of and growth in the economy.

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Dyddiad y datganiad:
11 February 2020

Cyhoeddiad nesaf:
11 March 2020

1. UK gross domestic product (GDP) was flat in Quarter 4 (Oct to Dec) 2019

Commenting on today’s GDP figures, Head of GDP Rob Kent-Smith:

“There was no growth in the last quarter of 2019 as increases in the services and construction sectors were offset by another poor showing from manufacturing, particularly the motor industry.

“The underlying trade deficit widened, as exports of services fell, partially offset by a fall in goods imports.”

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2. Growth in both services and construction was offset by a fall in production, which resulted in 0.0% GDP growth in the three months to December 2019

The services and construction sectors contributed positively to gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the three months to December 2019, growing by 0.1% and 0.5%, respectively. Meanwhile, the production sector fell by 0.8% in the same period, its eighth consecutive rolling three-month decline.

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3. Rolling three-month growth weakened for the third month in a row in December 2019

Rolling three-month growth was 0.0% in December 2019, following a period of volatility throughout the last year. This was in part linked to changes in the timing of activity around the originally planned departure dates of the UK from the EU in March and October 2019.

The volatility in 2019 can be seen to some extent in all headline sectors, but most notably in production and construction. However, while construction data can often be volatile, the recent volatility in the production sector has been notable, coinciding with the UK’s two previously planned departure dates from the EU. Despite this, the underlying picture for production was one of weakening throughout 2019, with nine months of the year showing negative rolling three-month growths.

Rolling three-month growth is based on output gross value added (GVA) and so there will be discrepancies in the time series with our quarterly estimates of GDP, which include information on the expenditure and income approaches to measuring GDP.

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4. Headline GDP grew by 1.4% in 2019

GDP grew by 1.4% in 2019, compared with 1.3% in 2018. Breaking this down by sector, services grew by 1.8%, production fell by 1.3% and construction grew by 2.5%.

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5. GDP grew by 0.3% in the month of December 2019

Monthly gross domestic product (GDP) increased by 0.3% in December 2019, driven by growth in services. This followed a fall of 0.3% in November 2019.

This release features revisions to the monthly data back to January 2019 in line with the UK National Accounts revisions policy. While the revisions are small at the headline level, an upward revision to June 2019 has resulted in an upwardly revised Quarter 3 (July to Sept) 2019.

The monthly growth rate for GDP is volatile and so it should be used with caution and alongside other measures, such as the three-month growth rate, when looking for an indicator of the longer-term trend of the economy. However, it is useful in highlighting one-off changes that can be masked by three-month growth rates.

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6. Growth in the services sector was 0.1% in Quarter 4 (Oct to Dec) 2019

The services sector grew by 0.1% in Quarter 4 (Oct to Dec) 2019. The main contributors were the education, real estate and health industries, which are high-weighted and tend to be stable over time. This growth was offset by wholesale and retail trade, of which retail trade fell by 1.0% over the same period.

The services sector grew by 0.3% in the month of December 2019 after contracting by 0.4% in November 2019. The information and communication sector was the biggest positive contributor on the month, driven by motion pictures, with a number of blockbuster films being released in December (PDF, 192.50KB).

Services grew by 1.8% in 2019. However, growth in this sector has notably declined over the last nine rolling three-months when compared with the same three months a year ago as seen in Figure 3.

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7. Output in the production sector fell by 0.8% in Quarter 4 (Oct to Dec) 2019

Quarterly growth in production was negative 0.8% in Quarter 4 (Oct to Dec) 2019, marking the eighth consecutive rolling three-monthly fall in this sector. Output in the manufacturing sector fell by 1.1% in the most recent quarter, driven by a decrease in the manufacture of transport equipment, with several factories going ahead with planned shutdowns in November. Elsewhere in production, the mining and quarrying sector fell, while both the water supply and energy sectors grew.

Production grew by 0.1% in December 2019, driven by growth in the manufacture of transport equipment, rebounding after a weak November 2019.

Production fell by 1.3 % in 2019, with long-term weakness in rolling three-month growth when compared to the same three months a year ago, as seen in Figure 3.

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8. The construction sector grew by 0.5% in Quarter 4 (Oct to Dec) 2019

Quarterly growth in construction was 0.5% in Quarter 4 (Oct to Dec) 2019, driven by increase in private commercial, public new housing and non-housing repair and maintenance.

Construction grew by 0.4% in December 2019. This was driven by growth in non-housing repair and maintenance, infrastructure, private commercial and public new housing. Construction output in November saw a notable upwards revision of 0.5 percentage points as a result of late data. This has given extra strength to the quarterly growth.

Construction grew by 2.5 % in 2019, the fastest growing component of gross domestic product (GDP).

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9. The expenditure measure of GDP was flat in Quarter 4 (Oct to Dec) 2019

The expenditure measure of gross domestic product (GDP) was flat at 0.0% in Quarter 4 (Oct to Dec) 2019. Private consumption, government consumption and net trade contributed positively to growth while gross capital formation (GCF) subtracted from GDP growth.

This release coincides with and is consistent with the GDP first quarterly estimate, which reconciles information on the output, expenditure and income measures of GDP. In our first quarterly estimate, output (which forms the basis for monthly GDP) tends to paint a more reliable picture of what is happening overall in the economy, and so balancing adjustments are applied to the expenditure and income components of GDP where required to align to output – these tend to be applied to components where data content is comparatively weak, or estimates are prone to revision. There were increased challenges around balancing the first estimate of GDP growth for Quarter 4, in part due to heightened uncertainty around the impact of the UK’s planned exit from the EU had on the activity of businesses. This has been reflected in the adjustments that have been applied to the expenditure estimates, for this reason we recommend the breakdown of the expenditure approach to GDP is considered in the context of these adjustments.

For more information please see the bulletin for the first GDP quarterly estimate.

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10. Nominal GDP increased by 0.1% in Quarter 4 (Oct to Dec) 2019

Growth in nominal gross domestic product (GDP) eased to 0.1% in Quarter 4 (Oct to Dec) 2019, following an increase of 0.9% in the previous quarter. The quarterly increase was driven by a 0.7% increase in compensation of employees.

For more information please see the bulletin for the first quarterly estimate of GDP.

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11. Things you need to know about this release


This release gives data for the whole of 2019 for the first time and incorporates revisions to monthly data back to January 2019 as a result of late survey returns and a review of the seasonal adjustment.

After EU withdrawal

As the UK leaves the EU, it is important that our statistics continue to be of high quality and are internationally comparable. During the transition period, those UK statistics that align with EU practice and rules will continue to do so in the same way as before 31 January 2020.

After the transition period, we will continue to produce our national accounts statistics in line with the UK Statistics Authority’s (UKSA’s) Code of Practice for Statistics and in accordance with internationally agreed statistical guidance and standards.

The Withdrawal Agreement outlines a need for UK Gross National Income (a fundamental component of the national accounts, which includes gross domestic product (GDP)) statistics to remain in line with those of other EU countries until the EU budgets are finalised for the years in which we were a member. To ensure comparability during this cycle, the national accounts will continue to be produced according to European System of Accounts (ESA) 2010 definitions and standards.

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12. Quality and methodology

Quality and methodology information on strengths, limitations, appropriate uses, and how the data were created is available in the Gross domestic product QMI.

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James Scruton
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