Coronavirus and the latest indicators for the UK economy and society: 12 November

Early experimental data on the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on the UK economy and society. These faster indicators are created using rapid response surveys, novel data sources and experimental methods.

This is not the latest release. View latest release

Cyswllt:
Email David Matthewson

Dyddiad y datganiad:
12 November 2020

Cyhoeddiad nesaf:
19 November 2020

1. Main points

  • Initial results found nearly half (49%) of currently trading UK businesses reported a decrease in their turnover below what is normally expected for this time of year, according to the Business Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Survey. See Section 3.

  • The proportion of British adults shopping for basic necessities and other things both decreased by three percentage points, to 70% and 20% respectively, according to the latest Opinions and Lifestyle Survey. See Section 4.

  • According to VAT returns, there were 20,880 new VAT reporters in the UK during October 2020, which is slightly above the level in October 2019 of 19,860 and consistent with the 2015 to 2019 average of 20,908. See Section 5.

  • Between 30 October and 6 November, total online job adverts saw a slight fall to 67% of their 2019 average, the first fall since the beginning of September. See Section 7.

  • Prices of items in the food and drink basket decreased by 0.2% in the latest week, with several items contributing to the downward weekly change. See Section 8.

  • The number of Energy Performance Certificates across England and Wales was 16% higher for existing dwellings and 13% lower for new dwellings when compared with the same week in 2019. See Section 9.

  • On 8 November, overall UK footfall dropped to 33% of the level seen on the equivalent day last year as national restrictions were introduced in England See Section 10.

  • On Monday 9 November 2020, the volume of all motor vehicle traffic decreased to twenty-four percentage points below the levels seen on the first Monday of February and is at its lowest level since mid-June. See Section 11.

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

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2. Latest indicators at a glance

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Source: Office for National Statistics – Faster indicators
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3. Business impact of the coronavirus

Initial results from Wave 17 of the Business Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Survey (BICS) are for the period 19 October to 1 November, which closes on 15 November 2020. Out of 38,760 UK businesses sampled, 19% had responded as of 10 November.

Wave 17 of BICS saw an increase in the sample from approximately 24,500 to approximately 38,000 , with an increase in the proportion of small- and medium-sized businesses being sampled. Please note that these data were collected over the period 2 November to 10 November 2020 and refer to the period 19 October to 1 November 2020. This should be kept in mind in relation to the timing of local and national lockdowns and dependent on the location and date when the business responded, as these could impact on the estimates.

All data in this section are weighted estimates. A detailed description of the weighting methodology and its differences to unweighted estimates is available in Business Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Survey: preliminary weighted results.

Trading status

Across all UK industries:

  • 81% of businesses had been trading for more than the last two weeks
  • 2% of businesses had started trading within the last two weeks after a pause in trading
  • 3% of businesses had paused trading but intend to restart in the next two weeks
  • 13% of businesses had paused trading and do not intend to restart in the next two weeks
  • 2% of businesses had permanently ceased trading

Of UK businesses that have not permanently ceased trading, 9% of their workforce were on partial or full furlough leave, 27% were working remotely, and 60% were working at their normal place of work.

Table 1 shows the financial performance of businesses currently trading.

When asked about their cash reserves, 4% of UK businesses that have not permanently ceased trading said that they had no cash reserves, 42% said that they had less than six months, and 34% said that they had more than six months. 20% said that they weren’t sure.

Of UK businesses that had not permanently ceased trading, 37% had high confidence that their business will survive the next three months; 41% had moderate confidence, 14% had no or low confidence, and 8% were not sure.

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4. Social impacts of the coronavirus on Great Britain

This section includes headline results from Wave 32 of the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN) covering the period 5 November to 8 November 2020.

Travelling to work

In the week ending 8 November, the proportion of British adults who travelled to work increased by two percentage points to 58% as shown in Figure 1. The proportion of adults that worked from home and those that neither worked from home nor travelled to work remained similar to the previous week.

Shopping

The proportion of British adults who shopped for food and medicine and shopped for other things both decreased by three percentage points from the previous week to 70% and 20% respectively.

Face coverings

The proportion of British adults who have used a face covering increased slightly to 98%. Further breakdowns such as the situations when a face covering was worn (for example, while shopping) and by the countries of Great Britain will be available in Coronavirus and the social impacts on Great Britain published on 13 November 2020.

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5. Value Added Tax (VAT) data

New reporters

The new reporters index measures the number of UK firms sending VAT returns for the first time, which is related to the number of firm creations.

Business VAT Turnover estimates

Turnover diffusion indices are an aggregate measure used to track whether the majority of firms are reporting an increase or decrease in turnover in their Value Added Tax (VAT) returns. They are calculated as the percentage of firms with increasing turnover minus the percentage with decreasing turnover.

The heatmap in Figure 3 is a visual way of showing the VAT diffusion indices based on the standard deviation from their historical 2008 to 2019 average. Larger deviations are more darkly coloured, with red representing negative change, and teal a positive change, when compared with the previous period.

The monthly estimate of GDP for September 2020 is published today. October 2020 estimates of Retail sales in Great Britain will be published on 20 November 2020. It is important to note that the timely VAT indicators are not attempting to forecast or predict gross domestic product (GDP) or other headline economic statistics, and the indicators should not be interpreted in this way.

Figure 3: In September 2020, more firms have continued to report decreasing turnover than increasing turnover when compared with the same time a year ago

Heatmap of business turnover estimates, UK, up to Quarter 3 (July to Sept) 2020 and September 2020; new reporters, UK, up to October 2020

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Source: Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC)
Notes:
  1. Agri - Agriculture, forestry and fishing, All - All industries, SA - Seasonally adjusted, NSA - Not seasonally adjusted.

  2. All industries are unweighted: each firm contributing to the index has the same weight regardless of turnover, size or industry.

  3. The thresholds for the colours in the heatmap are based on standard deviations from the mean of the indicator between 2008 and 2019.

Data download

Figure 3 shows the month-on-month all-industry turnover estimate for September 2020 compared with August 2020 was steady at 0.4 standard deviations above its historical 2008 to 2019 average (white), with a diffusion index of 0.01. In other words, out of the 36,870 firms which reported monthly turnover between August and September 2020, around 400 more firms saw their turnover increase than firms who saw their turnover decrease. Across all major industries (services, production, construction), turnover indices remained positive in September 2020 compared with the month before, except for the agricultural industry where slightly more firms saw their turnover decrease rather than increase.

Figure 3 also shows the month-on-year ago all-industry turnover estimate for September 2020 compared with September 2019 is negative 0.8 standard deviations below its historical average with a diffusion index of negative 0.02. More businesses are seeing decreasing turnover than increasing turnover when compared with the same month a year ago, meaning turnover has not returned to the levels seen before the impact of the pandemic.

Please note the monthly and quarterly diffusion indices can exhibit different trends as only a subset of firms contribute towards the monthly diffusion indices. Quarterly returns are allocated to the calendar quarter in which two or more of the months lie. For example, a quarterly return covering the period June 2020 to August 2020 will be allocated to Quarter 3 (July to Sept) 2020. At this stage of the quarterly data cycle, there is limited information about September 2020 feeding into the Quarter 3 2020 estimates.

For more information on how the quarterly reporting periods are derived, see VAT reporting periods in Section 2 of the VAT methodology article. The number of firms contributing towards each of the diffusion indices is published in the dataset.

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6. Company incorporations and voluntary dissolution applications

Incorporations

Voluntary dissolution applications

For more information on other measures of company closures not presented here, see Weekly indicators of company creations and closures from Companies House methodology: August 2020.

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7. Online job adverts

These figures use job adverts provided by Adzuna, an online job search engine, and include experimental estimates of online job adverts by Adzuna category and by UK country and NUTS1 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: Between 30 October and 6 November, total online job adverts saw a slight fall of three percentage points, to 67% of their 2019 average

Total weekly job adverts on Adzuna, UK, 4 January 2019 to 6 November 2020, index 2019 average = 100

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Source: Adzuna
Notes:
  1. The observations were collected on a roughly weekly basis; however, before June 2020 they were not all observed at the same point in each week, leading to slightly irregular gaps between some observations.

  2. These series have a small number of missing weeks, mostly in late 2019, and the latest is in January 2020. These values have been imputed using linear interpolation. The data points that have been imputed are clearly marked in the accompanying dataset.

  3. 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.

Data download

In the latest week, total online job adverts saw a slight fall of three percentage points, the first fall since the beginning of September. However, there may be a seasonal component to recent movements, as it is consistent with the previous year's trend. Excluding the "unknown" category, online job adverts decreased in 21 of the 28 remaining Adzuna categories and increased in the remaining seven categories.

The category of domestic help decreased the most, by 23 percentage points. Conversely, the legal category increased the most, by five percentage points. Please note the trends of all the categories discussed can be seen in the dataset.

Figure 7: Northern Ireland had the largest weekly decrease of online job adverts, to 65% of its 2019 average from 78% in the previous week

Total weekly job adverts on Adzuna, UK, 4 January 2019 to 6 November 2020, index 2019 average = 100, percentage points

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Source: Adzuna
Notes:
  1. There is a level shift in the Northern Ireland series from 17 October 2019 due to a large source of Northern Ireland job adverts being removed, and another level shift from 7 August 2020 because of a new source being included.

Data download

In the latest week, the volume of job adverts decreased in all regions of the UK. However, the regions with the highest volume of job adverts compared with their 2019 average were the East Midlands at 85%, followed by the North East at 84% of their 2019 average.

Northern Ireland saw the largest decrease, of 13 percentage points to 65% of its 2019 average. The North West and Scotland both saw the smallest decreases, of two percentage points, to 76% and 64% of their averages respectively. For the 11th consecutive week, London remains the region with the lowest volume of job adverts compared with its 2019 average, at 54%.

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8. Online price change in food and drink basket

A timely indication of weekly online price change for a selection of food and drink products from several, large UK retailers has been developed, covering the period 1 June to 8 November 2020. Details of the methodology used for these indicators can be found in Online price changes methodology. This analysis is experimental and should not be compared with our regular consumer price statistics.

The time series, weekly growth rates and contributions to the weekly change for all individual food and drink items, along with sample sizes are published in a dataset alongside this release.

Following processing updates carried out by the Prices team, there are very minor revisions to the historic price series presented in this bulletin. These revisions primarily affect data for the week commencing 26 October.

Online prices of items in the food and drink basket decreased overall by 0.2% between the week commencing 26 October 2020 and the week commencing 2 November 2020. Figure 8 presents the contributions to this weekly change from each of the main categories of items.

Vegetables were the largest contributor to the latest weekly movement and saw prices decrease by 0.6%. Within this category, price drops for crisps were the main driver behind the weekly change, contributing negative 0.47 percentage points towards the change in vegetables.

The second largest downward contribution came from spirits which saw prices drop by 0.7% in the latest week. This was primarily driven by whisky which contributed negative 0.62 percentage points towards the weekly spirits change.

The only offsetting factor came from wine which saw prices increase by 0.5%. Within this category, red and white wine each contributed 0.25 percentage points to the weekly change in wine.

Figure 9, with the time series for the all-item index and some of the leading categories of the weekly change, shows that the all-item index has been on a broadly downward trend since the beginning of June. The vegetable series, while more volatile, shows a similar downward trend. The spirits series has also been volatile but is now close to its starting point in June. Wine, in contrast, has shown a broadly upward trend since the beginning of June.

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9. Energy performance certificates

Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) are used as a timely indicator for the number of completed constructions (new EPCs) and number of transactions (existing EPCs). More detailed statistics split by NUTS1 English region are published weekly by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).

This release includes weekly EPCs data for new and existing domestic properties in England and Wales from 24 February 2019 up to the week commencing 2 November 2020. This section analyses the percentage change compared with the same week the previous year. For example, the latest week commencing 2 November 2020 was compared with the week commencing 4 November 2019.

The latest week shows that every NUTS 1 region had higher levels of existing dwellings EPCs compared with the same period last year, except for Wales, which was 46% lower.

The percentage change of new dwelling EPCs compared with the same week a year ago continues to show a slower recovery relative to existing dwelling EPCs since May 2020. A reduction in construction would contribute to the delay in EPC assessments of new dwellings.

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10. Footfall

These figures are provided by Springboard, a provider of data on customer activity. They measure the volume of footfall compared with the same day the previous year at the overall level and across the categories of high streets, retail parks and shopping centres. For example, Tuesday 14 July 2020 was compared with Tuesday 16 July 2019.

On Sunday 8 November 2020 overall footfall fell to 33 percent of the footfall seen on the same day last year; this large decrease coincides with the national restrictions in England coming into effect on 5 November. The day before the introduction of these national restrictions, overall footfall peaked at 91% of the footfall seen on the same day last year due to a surge in shopping activity.

Also on Sunday 8 November 2020, footfall across all retail destinations in the UK saw a large drop compared to the same day a year ago. Footfall on high streets and shopping centres both fell to 27% of the level seen the same day a year ago, and retail parks fell to just over a half of footfall seen during the same period a year ago.

Figure 12 shows the volume of footfall in each English region and UK country compared with the same day the previous year.

On Sunday 8 November footfall fell in all seven English regions compared to the previous week, with the South East, West Midlands, South West and East of England seeing the largest decline of negative 50 percentage points. The large decrease in English regions coincided with the new national restrictions in England which came into effect on 5 November. These measures meant that certain businesses and venues, including bars, restaurants and non-essential retail had to close.

Northern Ireland which is still in a circuit breaker lockdown saw a weekly increase of 10 percentage points.

Footfall remains significantly lower compared with the levels seen during the same period last year, especially in Wales where the firebreak lockdown ended on Monday 9 November.

A full list of national restrictions is available from the Department of Health and Social Care for England, from the Scottish Government for Scotland, the Welsh Government for Wales and from nidirect for Northern Ireland.

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11. Roads and traffic camera data

The Department for Transport (DfT) produces daily road traffic estimates using data from around 275 automatic traffic count sites across Great Britain covering all road types, which are published weekly.

The daily DfT estimates are indexed to the first week of February 2020 and the comparison is to 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 methodology article.

On Thursday 5 November 2020, the first day of national lockdown restrictions in England, the volume of total motor vehicles was 27 percentage points lower than in the first week of February 2020. This was the lowest level of road traffic since mid-June and a large decrease from the day before when it was only four percentage points below the level seen in the first week of February 2020. On Monday 9 November, car traffic was 30 percentage points lower than the levels seen in the first week of February 2020 and light commercial vehicles traffic was 10 percentage points lower. Conversely, heavy goods vehicle traffic was six percentage points above the levels seen in the first week of February 2020.

Traffic camera activity

Traffic cameras are a valuable source for understanding the level of activity in towns and cities as well as changing patterns of mobility. The UK has thousands of publicly accessible traffic cameras with providers ranging from national agencies to local authorities. Further information on the methodology used to produce these data is available in our methodology article and Data Science Campus blog.

In the accompanying dataset, the following categories are available as non-seasonally adjusted, seasonally adjusted and trend data: cars, motorbikes (only available for London and the North East), buses, trucks, vans and pedestrians and cyclists.

The categories are available for the following regions, which give a broad coverage across the UK and represent a range of different-sized settlements in urban and rural settings: DurhamLondon, Greater ManchesterNorth EastNorthern IrelandSouthend and Reading.

Manchester, Reading, Durham, North East and Southend see a spike in traffic in the three days preceding the national lockdown in England (2 to 4 November). This is consistent with anecdotal evidence which showed an increase in shopping activity ahead of lockdown restrictions (5 November).

Figure 14: In the week ending 8 November 2020, all categories of road transport in London, except motorbikes, decreased from the previous week and remain below pre-March lockdown levels

Activity in selected areas, daily counts of cars, buses, pedestrians and cyclists, seasonally adjusted, March to November 2020, UK

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Notes:
  1. The regions shown here were selected to be representative of the regions available.

  2. 31 August was a bank holiday.

  3. Traffic camera images capture the appearance of buses, but they give no indication of the number of passengers using public transport.

  4. Pre-March 2020 lockdown averages are calculated from when the series started, 11 March to 22 March for London.

  5. Greater Manchester moved into Tier 3 "very high" coronavirus alert level on 23 October. London moved into Tier 2 on 16 October. Northern Ireland introduced a four week "circuit breaker" with additional restrictions on 16 October.

  6. From Thursday 5 November until Wednesday 2 December, England has entered a period of national restrictions which, amongst other measures, has asked the public to stay at home.

  7. Northern Ireland data for 8 November is omitted due to technical difficulties.

Data download

In the latest week ending 8 November 2020, all categories of road traffic in London decreased except motorbikes. Counts of pedestrians decreased to 78% of the level seen pre-March lockdown, this decrease coincides with the national lockdown for England, which came into effect on 5 November 2020. Both cars and buses decreased to 77% of the average level seen pre-March lockdown. Please note that the counts of buses give no indication of the number of passengers onboard. Counts of motorbikes increased to 90% of the average level seen pre-March lockdown.

In Manchester, counts of all traffic except buses increased compared with the average level seen in the previous week. Counts of cars increased to 104% and pedestrians and cyclists increased to 109% of the average level seen last week. However, buses decreased to 97% compared with the level seen in the previous week.

In Northern Ireland, counts of all traffic except pedestrians and cyclists increased compared with the average level seen in the previous week and remain below the level seen pre-March lockdown.

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12. Shipping

These shipping indicators are based on counts of all vessels and cargo and tanker vessels. As discussed in Faster indicators of UK economic activity: shipping, we expect the shipping indicators to be related to the import and export of goods.

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13. Data

Weekly and daily shipping indicators
Dataset | Released 12 November 2020
The weekly and daily shipping indicators dataset associated with the faster indicators of UK economic activity.

Online job advert estimates
Dataset | Released 12 November 2020
Experimental job advert indices covering the UK job market.

Traffic camera activity
Dataset | Released 12 November 2020
Experimental dataset for busyness indices covering the UK

Online weekly price changes
Dataset | Released 12 November 2020
The online price changes for a selection of food and drink products from several large UK retailers. These data are experimental estimates developed to deliver timely indicators to help understand the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Economic activity, faster indicators, UK
Dataset | Released 12 November 2020
Data on road traffic and Value Added Tax (VAT) data from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

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14. Glossary

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.

Diffusion index

The diffusion index tracks the growth in turnover and expenditure of firms. It is constructed to lie between negative one and one. For example, if 65% of firms have increasing turnover, 30% have decreasing turnover and 5% turnover remains unchanged, then the diffusion index is 0.35.

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.

New reporter

A new reporter is defined as a firm with a Value Added Tax (VAT) reference (that is, firm identification number) that has not previously reported its VAT returns. New reporters are published within one month of the end of the reporting period.

The new reporting behaviour measure is classified by the month the data were received by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), known as the receipt date, which is not necessarily the same as the reference period (the period for which the VAT return is made).

Businesses must register for VAT with HMRC if its VAT taxable turnover, that is the total value of everything it sells that is not exempt from VAT, is more than £85,000 in a rolling 12-month period. As such, the number of new reporters detailed here are not directly comparable with the number of company incorporations shown in our section on Companies House data, which shows when a company is added to the Companies House register of limited companies.

For more information please see the methodology article on Value Added Tax returns

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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15. Measuring the data

Detailed information on the data sources, quality and methodology of the different indicators included in this bulletin is available in the Coronavirus and the latest indicators of the UK economy and society methodology.

We will summarise any crucial updates to the quality or methodology in this section in the future.

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16. Strengths and limitations

Detailed information on the strengths and limitations of the different indicators included in this bulletin is available in the Coronavirus and the latest indicators of the UK economy and society methodology.

We will summarise any crucial updates or warnings in this section in the future.

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Manylion cyswllt ar gyfer y Bwletin ystadegol

David Matthewson
faster.indicators@ons.gov.uk
Ffôn: +44 (0)1633 455612