Coronavirus and the latest indicators for the UK economy and society: 28 January 2021

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.

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Cyswllt:
Email David Matthewson

Dyddiad y datganiad:
28 January 2021

Cyhoeddiad nesaf:
4 February 2021

1. Main points

  • According to the indicator derived from the Bank of England's Clearing House Automated Payment System (CHAPS) data, aggregate UK debit and credit card purchases remained at 35% below their February 2020 average in the week to 21 January 2021, with little weekly change at the individual category level. See Section 3

  • According to the Business Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Survey (BICS), 17% of the workforce of UK businesses were furloughed in Wave 22 (28 December 2020 to 10 January 2021), an increase from 14% in the previous period (Wave 21). See Section 4.

  • 47% of working adults in Great Britain travelled to work in the last seven days (both exclusively and in combination with working from home) in the week ending 24 January 2021, according to the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN). See Section 5.

  • According to exactEarth seasonally adjusted shipping data, there was an average of 96 daily cargo ship visits in the week ending 24 January 2021, an increase on the previous week (89) and a return to pre-Christmas 2020 levels, but still lower than the same period a year ago (122). See Section 6.

  • According to Adzuna, between 15 and 22 January 2021, the volume of online job adverts increased across all UK countries and English regions, except the East of England. See Section 7.

  • According to Springboard, in the week ending 24 January 2021, overall footfall was broadly unchanged from last week at 34% of the volume seen in the same week a year ago. See Section 8.

  • Overall prices of items in the food and drink basket increased by 0.1% in the week ending 24 January 2021. See Section 9.

  • According to the Department for Transport (DfT), on Monday 25 January 2021, traffic volumes of heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) decreased by 5 percentage points compared with the previous week and were 93% of the volume seen on the first Monday of February 2020. See Section 10.

  • According to Companies House data, the number of company incorporations and voluntary dissolution applications both increased compared with the previous week. 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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Data download

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3. 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 Clearing House Automated Payment System (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 via 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 1 shows changes in the value of CHAPS payments received by large UK corporates from their credit and debit card processors "merchant acquirers". Debit and credit card spending rose sharply over the festive period. This increase was driven by "staples" and "delayable spending", such as in supermarkets and other retail stores, which typically increase in December.

Spending fell in the week following Christmas, and has remained relatively low for "work-related", "social" and "delayable" expenditure. This coincides with the extension of Tier 4 restrictions on Boxing Day, and the start of lockdowns in mainland Scotland and England on 5 and 6 January 2021, respectively.

In the week to 21 January 2021, the CHAPS-based indicator of credit and debit card purchases in aggregate remained at 35% below its February 2020 average. There has also been little change at the individual consumption category level since the previous week. In the latest week, "staple" purchases are similar to the February 2020 average, while "delayable", "social" and "work-related" purchases remain 50%, 55% and 45% respectively below levels seen in February 2020.

The full data time series available for data on UK spending on debit and credit cards can be found in the accompanying dataset.

More about coronavirus

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4. Business impact of the coronavirus

Final results from Wave 22 of the Business Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Survey (BICS). The data are based on a response rate of 26.6% (10,325 responses) and cover the reference period 28 December 2020 to 10 January 2021, and the survey was live for the period 11 to 24 January 2021.

These dates should be kept in mind in relation to local and national lockdowns and, dependent on the location and date when the business responded, this could have an impact on the estimates. Also note that the reference period for these data overlaps the end of the UK’s EU exit transition period, which ended on 31 December 2020. Therefore, data should be interpreted in this context.

Figure 2: 17% of the workforce of UK businesses were furloughed in Wave 22 (28 December 2020 to 10 January 2021), an increase from 14% in the previous period (Wave 21)

Headline indicators from the Business Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) survey (BICS)

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Notes:

  1. Final weighted results, Wave 22 of Office for National Statistics' (ONS') Business Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Survey.

  2. Businesses were asked for their experiences for the reference period 28 December 2020 to 10 January 2021. However, for questions regarding the last two weeks, businesses may respond from the point of completion of the questionnaire (11 to 24 January 2021).

  3. A detailed description of the weighting methodology and the weights used for each variable is available in Business Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Survey (BICS): preliminary weighted results.

Data download

Across all UK industries, in Wave 22:

  • 67% of businesses had been trading for more than the last two weeks (broadly unchanged from 68% in Wave 21)

  • 4% of businesses had started trading within the last two weeks after a pause in trading (broadly unchanged from 3% in Wave 21)

  • 4% of businesses had paused trading but intend to restart in the next two weeks (a decrease from 9% in Wave 21)

  • 23% of businesses had paused trading and do not intend to restart in the next two weeks (an increase from 18% in Wave 21)

  • 3% of businesses had permanently ceased trading (broadly unchanged from 2% in Wave 21)

A comprehensive analysis of the responses from the voluntary fortnightly Business Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Survey is available in the Business insights and impact on the UK economy bulletin, published on 28 January 2021.

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5. Social impacts of the coronavirus

This section includes some headline results from Wave 42 of the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN) covering the period 20 to 24 January 2021. The survey went out to 6,030 adults in Great Britain and had a response rate of 74%.

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 published on 29 January 2021.

Travelling to work

In the week ending 24 January 2021, the proportion of working adults in Great Britain who:

  • travelled to work in the last seven days (both exclusively and in combination with working from home) decreased slightly from the previous period (Wave 41) to 47%

  • worked exclusively from home in the last seven days decreased slightly to 34%

  • neither travelled to work nor worked from home in the last seven days increased by 3 percentage points to 19%

Shopping

The proportion of adults who shopped for things other than food and medicine in the last seven days remained unchanged at 5%; the continued low level coincides with the ongoing lockdowns throughout the UK.

The proportion of adults that shopped for food and medicine in the last seven days decreased slightly to 74%.

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6. 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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We have identified an issue in processing the published ships data for the period week ending 17 January 2021 only. This has given us minor revisions to the UK-level headline data and some comparatively larger revisions to the daily, port-specific data. We apologise for this issue but are confident that the recent headline trends in ships data remain unaffected.

Since reaching a low of 192 visits over the Christmas period, the seven-day average of all daily shipping visits has increased from 242 last week to 267 visits in the latest week, ending 24 January 2021. Although there is some evidence of a return to the levels of average daily visits seen before Christmas, they remain at lower levels than the same period last year, with 397 visits recorded in the week ending 26 January 2020.

Since reaching a low of 70 visits over the Christmas period, the seven-day average of daily cargo ship visits has increased from 89 to 96 visits in the latest week, ending 24 January 2021. As with the headline ships data, there are signs of a return to the levels of average daily cargo ship visits seen before Christmas. However, they remain at lower levels than the same period last year, with 122 visits recorded in the week ending 26 January 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 5: Between 15 and 22 January 2021, the volume of total online job adverts increased by 5 percentage points from the previous week to 74% of levels seen last year

Total weekly job adverts on Adzuna, UK, 4 January 2019 to 22 January 2021, percentage change from the same week in the previous year

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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 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

According to Adzuna, in the latest week ending 22 January 2021, the volume of UK online job adverts increased by 5 percentage points from the previous week to 74% of the level seen in the same week last year.

Excluding the “unknown” category, online job adverts increased in 21 out of 28 categories from the previous week. “Construction / trades” and “transport, logistics, warehouse” each saw the largest increases by 22 percentage points to 117% and 108% respectively of the volumes seen in the same week last year. At an increase of 20 percentage points each, “manufacturing” and “energy, oil and gas” also increased substantially, at 108% and 71%, respectively.

Job adverts decreased in the remaining seven categories with “education” seeing the largest drop by 11 percentage points to 66% of the level seen in the same week last year. “Healthcare and social care” saw a decrease of 6 percentage points compared with last week, to 92% of the level seen last year. At 24%, “catering and hospitality” remains the category with the lowest comparable volume of online job adverts.

Regional job adverts

Figure 6: Between 15 and 22 January 2021, the volume of online job adverts increased across all UK countries and regions except the East of England

Total weekly job adverts on Adzuna, UK, 4 January 2019 to 22 January 2021, percentage change from the same week in the previous year

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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, job adverts increased across all UK countries and English regions, except for the East of England, which fell by 3 percentage points to 64% of its volume when compared with the same week of last year. London saw the largest increase in online job adverts by 29 percentage points, to 85% of the volume seen last year. This is the first week where London has not had the lowest comparable volume since the week ending 7 August 2020. Instead, the East of England had the lowest comparable volume this week.

Northern Ireland saw a strong increase in the volume of online job adverts from last week, increasing by 22 percentage points. The North East, West Midlands and Scotland also saw strong weekly increases of 19 percentage points to 105%, 90% and 83% of the volume seen in the same week last year, respectively. Wales saw a weekly increase of 11 percentage points to 84% of the volume seen last year.

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8. 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, Sunday 24 January 2021 was compared with Sunday 26 January 2020.

According to Springboard, in the week ending 24 January 2021, retail footfall in the UK was at 34% of its level compared with the equivalent period of 2020, broadly unchanged from the previous week (33%).

Footfall at UK high streets remained unchanged from the previous week at 27% of the level seen in the equivalent week of 2020. At retail parks it increased by 3 percentage points compared with the previous week to 59% of its level in the same week of 2020. Footfall at shopping centres remained broadly unchanged from the previous week at 27% of its level compared with the same period of 2020.

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9. Online price change in the 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 2020 to 24 January 2021. 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 data 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.

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Because of a technical issue, this week's statistics were calculated from data collected on only a portion of the week, so they may not capture all of the week's price movements.

The overall prices of items in the online food and drink basket increased by 0.1% between the week ending 17 January 2021 and the week ending 24 January 2021, with six categories providing positive contributions to the overall price movement, two providing negative contributions and six making a negligible contribution to the overall movement.

The main upward contributors to the overall price movement in the latest week were “bread and cereals”, “fruit”, and “meat”, each of which experienced a 0.2% price rise and contributed positive 0.02 percentage points to the overall price rise. Most items had a small contribution to their respective category’s price movement, with a notable exception being strawberries, which caused most of the price rise for “fruit”.

The main offsetting category was “sugar, jam, syrup, chocolate and confectionery”, which saw its price fall by 0.3% and contributed negative 0.03 percentage points to the overall price movement. This price fall was mostly because of the falling price of chocolate.

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10. Road and traffic camera data

Road traffic in Great Britain

According to the Department for Transport (DfT) non-seasonally adjusted road traffic data, on Monday 25 January 2021, the volume of all motor vehicle traffic decreased by 2 percentage points when compared with the previous week and was at 61% of the level observed on the same day of the first week of February 2020. This continues the trend of overall traffic volumes remaining lower than pre-Christmas levels.

On Monday 25 January 2021, traffic volumes of heavy goods vehicles (HGVs), light commercial vehicles and cars all decreased when compared with Monday 18 January 2021, with HGVs seeing the largest decrease by 5 percentage points to 93% of the volume of road traffic on the first Monday of February 2020. Light commercial traffic fell by 2 percentage points to 77%, whilst cars decreased by 3 percentage points to 54% of the volume seen in February 2020.

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 methodology article.

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

  • 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:

Table 1 shows the average proportion (%) of all road activity in the latest week ending 24 January 2021 compared with the previous week for London, Northern Ireland, Greater Manchester (see footnote 3) and the North East.

Table 2 shows the average proportion (%) of all road activity in the North East and London in the latest week ending 24 January 2021 compared with the period before the spring lockdown. Data for before the spring lockdown are calculated as an average of the period 11 March (when the series for London begins) to 22 March 2020.

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11. Company incorporations and voluntary dissolution applications

Incorporations

According to Companies House data, in the week to Friday 22 January 2021, there were 15,905 company incorporations in the UK, slightly up from 15,326 in the week before. This is higher than the number of incorporations seen in the fourth week of both 2019 and 2020, when 13,378 and 13,934 were registered respectively and marks a continuation of a trend of higher incorporations since the second half of last year.

Voluntary dissolution applications

In the week to Friday 22 January 2021, there were 4,828 voluntary company dissolution applications, up from 4,629 in the previous week. This is lower than the number of voluntary company dissolutions observed in the fourth week of 2019 and 2020, when there were 7,276 and 6,391 respectively.

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12. Data

UK spending on credit and debit cards
Dataset | Released 28 January 2021
These data series are experimental faster indicators for monitoring UK retail purchases.

Weekly and daily shipping indicators
Dataset | Released 28 January 2021
The weekly and daily shipping indicators dataset associated with the faster indicators of UK economic activity.

Traffic camera activity
Dataset | Released 28 January 2021
Experimental dataset for busyness indices covering the UK.

Online weekly price changes
Dataset | Released 28 January 2021
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.

Online job advert estimates
Dataset | Released 28 January 2021
Experimental job advert indices covering the UK job market.

Business insights and impact on the UK economy
Dataset | Released 28 January 2021
Responses from the new voluntary fortnightly business survey, which captures businesses responses on how their turnover, workforce prices, trade and business resilience have been affected in the two-week reference period.

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13. 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.

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.

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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14. Measuring the data

End of EU exit transition period

As the transition period ends and the UK enters into a new Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the EU, the UK statistical system will continue to produce and publish our wide range of economic and social statistics and analysis. We are committed to continued alignment with the highest international statistical standards, enabling comparability both over time and internationally, and ensuring the general public, statistical users and decision makers have the data they need to be informed.

Footfall methodology

Users should be aware that the percentage changes quoted in this bulletin for the week are based on an average of the percentage change on each of the seven days and are not weighted by footfall volume on each day. This can result in the percentage change in this bulletin differing from that published by Springboard in other publications.

UK regional lockdown restrictions

The following is a summary of the changes in coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions in each of the four UK constituent countries between Monday 18 January and Monday 25 January 2021.

A full list of national restrictions is available for England from gov.uk, for Scotland from the Scottish Government, for Wales the Welsh Government and for Northern Ireland from nidirect.

Lockdown restrictions as of Monday 18 January 2021

UK

  • All travel corridors are closed. With a few exceptions, arrivals must self-isolate for 10 days and those flying are required to present evidence of a negative COVID test before boarding the plane.

Scotland

  • All of mainland Scotland is under full lockdown restrictions. Orkney, the Shetland Islands and parts of the Western Isles are under Level 3 restrictions.

Wales

  • All of Wales is in Tier 4 lockdown restrictions.

England

  • England is under a full national lockdown.

Northern Ireland

  • Northern Ireland is under a full national lockdown.

Tuesday 19 January 2021

Scotland

  • Isles of Barra and Vatersay enter Tier 4 COVID restrictions. The remainder of the Western Isles, along with the Orkney Islands and Shetland Islands remain in Tier 3.

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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15. 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