Coronavirus and the latest indicators for the UK economy and society: 29 April 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 Issie Davies

Dyddiad y datganiad:
29 April 2021

Cyhoeddiad nesaf:
6 May 2021

1. Main points

  • The CHAPS-based indicator of credit and debit card purchases for delayable goods (such as clothing and furnishings) saw a second successive sizeable increase of 21 percentage points from the previous week and is now 110% of its February 2020 average (Bank of England's CHAPS data). See Section 3.

  • Of the 95% of adults who reported they had left home in the last seven days, the proportion who shopped for things other than food or medicine saw a notable increase of 8 percentage points to 28% this week (period to 25 April 2021) compared with the previous week (period to 18 April 2021) (Opinions and Lifestyle Survey). See Section 4.

  • Estimates for UK seated diner reservations on Saturday 24 April 2021 were at 62% of the level seen on the equivalent Saturday of 2019; this is a slight increase of 2 percentage points from the previous week but a substantial increase since Saturday 10 April 2021 (before restaurants and bars reopened) when its level was 0% (OpenTable). See Section 5.

  • In the week to 24 April 2021, overall retail footfall in the UK was at 80% of its level in the equivalent week of 2019; footfall at retail parks continues to outperform that at shopping centres and high streets relative to its level in the same period of 2019 (Springboard). See Section 6.

  • According to initial results from Wave 29 of the BICS (5 to 27 April 2021), 9% of currently trading UK businesses had started trading within the last two weeks after a pause in trading, with 83% of businesses now trading (an increase from 77% in the previous wave) and a further 4% of businesses intend to restart in the next two weeks (Business Insights and Conditions Survey (BICS)). See Section 7.

  • The volume of UK online job adverts was at 103% of its average February 2020 level on 23 April 2021; this is an increase of 4 percentage points from the previous week and the first time it has exceeded its February 2020 average level since 6 March 2020 (Adzuna). See Section 8.

  • The volume of motor vehicle traffic on Monday 26 April 2021 was at 93% of the level seen in the first week of February 2020, unchanged from previous week (Department for Transport (DfT)). See Section 9.

  • Traffic camera activity in London and the North East in the week ending 25 April 2021 remained above or around levels seen in the week before the first lockdown (Transport for London, TrafficWatchNI, North East Traffic Cameras). See Section 9.

  • There was an average of 108 cargo and tanker ship visits in the week ending 25 April 2021, a 5% increase from the previous week (103) and 11% higher than the equivalent week in 2019 (97) (exactEarth). See Section 10.

  • There were 14,292 company incorporations in the week to 23 April 2021, a 9% decrease on the previous week (15,771) and the lowest volume recorded in 2021 to date, but 21% higher than the equivalent week in 2019 (11,907) (Companies House). See the accompanying dataset.

  • There were 5,676 voluntary dissolution applications in the week to 23 April 2021, a 7% increase on the previous week (5,325) and 14% higher than the equivalent week of 2019 (4,977) (Companies House). See the accompanying dataset.

  • The overall price of items in the online food and drink basket was unchanged in the latest week ending 25 April 2021; the main upward contribution came from "wine", but this was offset by small price falls across several categories in the latest week (online price collection). See the accompanying dataset.

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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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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".  

In the week to 22 April 2021, the CHAPS-based indicator of credit and debit card purchases in aggregate increased by 7 percentage points from the previous week to 98% of its February 2020 average. This was mainly driven by a continued increase in 'delayable' spending, up 21 percentage points from the previous week following the re-opening of non-essential retail stores in England and Wales on 12 April 2021. 'Work-related' spending increased by 8 percentage points. In the latest week, both 'staples' and 'delayable' spending were above their February 2020 level at 111% and 110%, respectively. Conversely, 'social' and 'work-related' spending were at 71% and 96% of their average levels in February 2020, respectively.

The aggregated CHAPS-based indicator of debit and credit card purchases has increased by 34 percentage points since 7 January 2021, to 98% of its February 2020 average in the week to 22 April 2021.

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

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4. Social impact of the coronavirus

This section includes some provisional results from the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN) covering the period 21 to 25 April 2021. The survey went out to 6,022 adults in Great Britain and had a response rate of 63%.

Further information to help understand the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on people, households, and communities in Great Britain, will be available in Coronavirus and the social impacts on Great Britain due to be published 30 April 2021.

Travelling to work

In the period ending 25 April 2021, the proportion of working adults in Great Britain who in the last seven days:

  • travelled to work (either exclusively or in combination with working from home) increased slightly by 3 percentage points from the previous week to 58%

  • worked exclusively from home remained unchanged from the previous week at 27%

  • neither travelled to work nor worked from home remained broadly similar to the previous week at 16%

Shopping

Of the 95% of adults that reported they had left home in the last seven days, the proportion that did so to shop for food and medicine remained broadly similar to the previous week at 73%.

However, the proportion of these adults who shopped for things other than food and medicine in the last seven days saw a notable increase of 8 percentage points to 28% compared with the previous week. This likely reflects the easing of lockdown restrictions in England and Wales, which came into effect on 12 April 2021.

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5. OpenTable seated diner reservations

OpenTable is a leading provider of online restaurant reservations, and these data are publicly available in their The state of the restaurant industry dashboard. These data show the impact of recent events and restrictions on the hospitality industry using a sample of restaurants on the OpenTable network across all channels, that is, online reservations, phone reservations, and walk-ins.

On Saturday 24 April 2021, estimates for UK seated diner reservations were at 62% of the level seen on the equivalent Saturday of 2019. This is a slight increase of 2 percentage points from the previous week and a substantial increase since Saturday 10 April 2021 (before restaurants and bars reopened) when its level was 0%. However, estimates on 24 April 2021 show a notable decrease of 17 percentage points since the initial re-opening of bars and restaurants on 12 April when the equivalent figure reached 79% of the level seen on the equivalent Monday in 2019.

Estimates for London and Manchester on Saturday 24 April 2021 had decreased slightly by 3 and 2 percentage points from the previous week to 41% and 83% of the levels seen on the equivalent Saturday of 2019, respectively.

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6. Retail footfall

National retail footfall

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

  • daily retail footfall as a percentage of its level on the same day of the equivalent week of 2019; for example, Saturday 24 April 2021 is compared with Saturday 20 April 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 16 of 2021 is compared with Week 15 of 2021

  • Springboard's weekly data are defined over a seven-day period running from Sunday to Saturday; Week 16 of 2021 therefore refers to the period Sunday 18 April 2021 to Saturday 24 April 2021

According to Springboard, in the week to 24 April 2021, overall retail footfall in the UK was at 80% of the level seen in the equivalent week of 2019. This is a 5 percentage point increase when comparing it to the equivalent index from the previous week.

Consistent with the trend observed since the beginning of the year, in the week to 24 April 2021, footfall at retail parks remained substantially higher than that at high streets and shopping centres, at 102% of its level in the equivalent week of 2019. Despite this, footfall at high streets and shopping centres has seen a marked increase in recent weeks with corresponding figures in the latest week at 73% and 74%, respectively.

All retail locations saw slight week-on-week decreases in footfall, with shopping centres seeing the largest decrease of 8%. Footfall at high streets decreased by 4%, whilst retail parks fell by 1% between the weeks ending 17 April and 24 April 2021. Users should note that week-on-week changes in footfall are presented as percentages rather than percentage points because the figures represent differences in the level of footfall between periods, rather than movements in an index.

Regional retail footfall

According to Springboard, in the week to 24 April 2021, retail footfall was strongest in the North & Yorkshire at 90% of the level seen in the equivalent week of 2019. In the same period, retail footfall was weakest in Scotland at 49% of its level in the equivalent week of 2019. Across all UK regions, retail footfall remains below its level in the equivalent week of 2019.

All countries and regions of the UK except for Wales and Northern Ireland saw decreases in retail footfall between the weeks ending 17 April 2021 and 24 April 2021. Northern Ireland saw a week-on-week increase of 6%, whilst footfall in Wales remained unchanged from the previous week. The South East saw the largest week-on-week decrease in footfall of 6%.

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7. Business impacts and insights

Initial results from Wave 29 of the Business Insights and Conditions Survey (BICS) cover the reference period 5 to 18 April 2021, with a response rate of 21.8% (8,479 responses). The survey was live for the period 19 to 27 April 2021.

These dates should be kept in mind in relation to local and national restrictions in place during the reference period and the date when the business responded.

Figure 4: The proportion of the workforce of all UK businesses (excluding those permanently ceased trading) on furlough has decreased to 13%, down from the 17% in the previous wave

Headline indicators from the Business Insights and Conditions Survey (BICS), 5 to 27 April 2021

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Notes:

  1. Initial weighted results, Wave 29 of Office for National Statistics' (ONS') Business Insights and Conditions Survey (BICS).

  2. A detailed description of the weighting methodology and the weights used for each variable is available in Business Insights and Conditions Survey (BICS).

Download the data

Across all UK industries in Wave 29:

  • 73% of businesses had been trading for more than the last two weeks (broadly unchanged from Wave 28)

  • 9% of businesses had started trading within the last two weeks after a pause in trading (an increase from 4% in Wave 28)

  • 4% of businesses had paused trading but intend to restart in the next two weeks (a decrease from 9% in Wave 28)

  • 11% of businesses had paused trading and do not intend to restart in the next two weeks (broadly unchanged from 10% in Wave 28)

  • 3% of businesses had permanently ceased trading (broadly unchanged from 4% in Wave 28)

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8. 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 and by UK countries and English regions. 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: On 23 April 2021, the proportion of UK online job adverts was at 103% of its February 2020 average level, an increase of 4 percentage points from the previous week 

Index of job adverts on Adzuna by category, 100 = average job adverts in February 2020, 4 January 2019 to 23 April 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.

Download the data

According to Adzuna on 23 April 2021, the proportion of total UK online job adverts was at 103% of its average February 2020 level. This is 4 percentage points higher than the previous week and the first time it has exceeded its February 2020 average level since 6 March 2020.

Excluding the "unknown" category, compared with 16 April 2021, the volume of online job adverts increased in 23 out of the 28 categories, fell in three and remained broadly unchanged in the remaining two. The largest week-on-week increases were in "domestic help" and "construction and trades", though both increases can be partially attributed to an increase in adverts from a single company.

"Catering and hospitality" also increased, by 16 percentage points, to 82% of its average February 2020 level. This is the highest proportion of online job adverts for "catering and hospitality" seen since 12 March 2020, following a notable uptick in recent weeks, coinciding with the easing of restrictions in England. Another notable increase was in "wholesale and retail", which rose by 8 percentage points to 88% of its February average 2020 level. This is the highest proportion of online job adverts for this category seen since 20 March 2020.

The largest week-on-week decrease was in "healthcare and social care", which fell by 8 percentage points to 89% of its average February 2020 level.

Job adverts by region

Figure 6: On 23 April 2021, the volume of online job adverts increased in all 12 UK countries and English regions when compared with the previous week

Index of job adverts average job adverts in February 2020, 4 January 2019 to 23 April 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.

Download the data

According to Adzuna, on 23 April 2021, the volume of online job adverts had increased in all 12 of the UK countries and English regions when compared with 16 April 2021. Furthermore, on the same day, the proportion of online job adverts exceeded their average February 2020 levels in 9 of the 12 UK countries and English regions.

The largest week-on-week increase was recorded in the North East, where the proportion of online job adverts rose by 11 percentage points to 137% of its average February 2020 level.

London remains the UK region with the lowest proportion of online job adverts when compared with its average February 2020 level. Despite this, on 23 April 2021, London saw its highest proportion of online job adverts since 20 March 2020 at 89% of its February 2020 average level.

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9. Roads and traffic camera data

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 26 April 2021 remained unchanged from the previous week at 93% of the level seen on Monday of the first week of February 2020. This follows a recent upward trend which coincided with the further easing of restrictions in England and Wales that came into effect on 12 April 2021.

Compared with last week, light commercial vehicle traffic and heavy goods vehicle traffic both remained broadly unchanged at 107% and 108% of the levels seen on the same day of the first week in February 2020, respectively. Car traffic remained unchanged from the previous week at 88% of the level seen on the same day of the first week 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 DfT 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. 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:

Figure 8: Traffic camera activity in London and the North East in the week ending 25 April 2021 remained above or around levels seen in the week before the first lockdown

Traffic camera activity in selected areas, daily counts of cars, buses, pedestrians and cyclists, UK, seasonally adjusted, March 2020 to April 2021

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Notes:

  1. The three regions shown here were selected to be representative of the six regions available.

  2. User should note that because of faulty or missing camera images there is a higher level of imputation on 25 April 2021 in all six regions available.

Download the data

In the week to 25 April 2021, average levels of all types of traffic camera activity in London decreased or remained broadly similar (except for motorbikes) compared with the previous week:

  • cars saw a slight weekly decrease of 1% to 116% of the average level seen in the week before the first UK-wide lockdown (week ending 22 March 2020)

  • buses decreased by 3% to 94%

  • trucks decreased slightly by 1% to 103%

  • vans decreased slightly by 1% to 110%

  • pedestrians and cyclists decreased by 5% to 114%

  • motorbikes increased by 3% to 114%

Traffic camera activity increased or remained broadly similar in the North East compared with the previous week:

  • cars saw a weekly increase of 2% to 104% of the average level in the week before the first UK-wide lockdown (week ending 22 March 2020)

  • buses increased slightly by 1% to 104%

  • trucks increased by 5% to 98%

  • vans increased slightly by 1% to 95%

  • pedestrians and cyclists increased slightly by 1% to 102%

Traffic camera activity increased in Northern Ireland compared with the previous week:

  • cars increased by 2%

  • buses increased by 11%

  • trucks increased 4%

  • vans increased by 7%

  • pedestrians and cyclists increased by 7%

Caution should be taken when interpreting weekly changes for Northern Ireland because of the relatively low numbers of counts across all categories. Comparisons with pre-lockdown levels cannot be made for Northern Ireland as data are not available for the week before the first UK-wide lockdown.

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10. 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.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic first began to affect the level of shipping visits from the week ending 29 March 2020. For this reason, average ship visits in the latest week are compared with the equivalent week in 2019 rather than 2020.

The 5% weekly increase in average cargo and tanker ship visits in the week ending 25 April 2021 can be attributed to increased activity in several UK ports including London, Southampton, and Felixstowe.

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11. Data

UK spending on credit and debit cards
Dataset | Released 29 April 2021
Experimental faster indicators for monitoring UK retail purchases derived from the Bank of England's Clearing House Automated Payment System (CHAPS) data.

Shipping indicators
Dataset | Released 29 April 2021
Experimental weekly and daily ship visits dataset covering UK ports.

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

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

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

Online weekly price changes
Dataset | Released 29 April 2021 Experimental estimates of online price changes for a selection of food and drink products from several large UK retailers.

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12. Glossary

Faster indicator

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

Company incorporations

Incorporations are when a company is added to the Companies House register of limited companies. This can also include 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 chose to be removed from the Companies House register. For a company to be eligible to voluntarily dissolve, it should not have completed any trading activity for a period of three months.

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13. Measuring the data

UK Coronavirus Restrictions

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

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

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14. Strengths and limitations

Information on the strengths and limitations of the indicators in this bulletin is available in the Coronavirus and the latest indicators of the UK economy and society methodology. We will summarise any crucial updates or warnings in this section in the future. 

A methodological update to introduce new items for the 2021 basket in line with the headline CPIH has been implemented this week and has been applied to data back to January 2021. Further details of this update can be found in the Online weekly price changes methodology.

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Manylion cyswllt ar gyfer y Bwletin ystadegol

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