Coronavirus and the latest indicators for the UK economy and society: 3 December 2020

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:
3 December 2020

Cyhoeddiad nesaf:
10 December 2020

1. Main points

  • According to the Business Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Survey, three-quarters (75%) of businesses had been trading for more than the last two weeks (a decrease from 79% in Wave 17). See Section 3.

  •  According to the latest Opinions and Lifestyle Survey, in the week ending 29 November 2020, the proportion of working adults in Great Britain travelling to work continued to decline, now reaching 54%; this gradual fall started in early October 2020. See Section 4.

  • Prices of items in the food and drink basket were unchanged in the latest week. See Section 6.

  • Total online job adverts between 20 November and 27 November 2020 increased by six percentage points but are still only 77% of the level seen in the same week last year. See Section 7.

  • According to Springboard, on Sunday 29 November 2020, footfall in Northern Ireland decreased to 28% of footfall seen on the same day last year, which coincides with national restrictions coming into force from 27 November 2020. See Section 8.

  • The volume of all motor vehicle traffic on Monday 30 November 2020 increased slightly from the previous week but remained 20 percentage points below the levels seen on the first Monday of February 2020. See Section 9.

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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

Final results from Wave 18 of the Business Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Survey (BICS) are for the period 2 to 15 November 2020, which closed on 29 November 2020. Out of approximately 39,000 UK businesses sampled, 28% had responded as of 29 November 2020.

Please note that these data were collected over the period 16 to 29 November 2020 and refer to the period 2 to 15 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.

Further breakdowns and a comprehensive analysis of the responses from this voluntary fortnightly Business Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Survey is available in Business insights and impact on the UK economy, published on 3 December 2020.

Trading status

Across all UK industries, in Wave 18:

  • 75% of businesses had been trading for more than the last two weeks (a decrease from 79% in Wave 17)

  • 2% of businesses had started trading within the last two weeks after a pause in trading

  • 8% of businesses had paused trading but intend to restart in the next two weeks (an increase from 3% in Wave 17)

  • 13% of businesses had paused trading and do not intend to restart in the next two weeks

  • 2% of businesses had permanently ceased trading

In Wave 18 (2 to 15 November 2020), the percentage of businesses temporarily closed or paused trading has risen to levels last seen in Wave 8 (15 June to 28 June 2020). Businesses' responses may be influenced by the opening and closing of restrictions during the questionnaire period.

Turnover

Of UK businesses currently trading:

  • nearly half (47%) experienced a decrease in turnover compared with what is normally expected for this time of year (a decrease from 50% in Wave 17)

  • 37% said turnover was unaffected (an increase from 33% in Wave 17)

  • 8% experienced an increase in turnover

  • 9% said they were not sure whether turnover was affected

Profits

Of UK businesses currently trading:

  • 43% experienced a decrease in profits compared with what is normally expected for this time of year (down from 47% in Wave 17)

  • 35% experienced no impact on profits (an increase from 31% in Wave 17)

  • 6% experienced an increase in profits (down from 8% in Wave 17)

  • 14% said they were not sure about the impact on profits

Cash reserves

Of UK businesses not permanently ceased trading:

  • 31% had between zero and three months' cash reserves

  • 16% had between four and six months' cash reserves

  • 35% had more than six months' cash reserves

  • 18% were not sure about their cash reserves

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4. Social impacts of the coronavirus on Great Britain

This section includes some headline results from Wave 35 of the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN) covering the period 25 to 29 November 2020.

Travelling to work

In the week ending 29 November 2020, the proportion of working adults in Great Britain who:

  • worked exclusively from home remained stable at 30%

  • travelled to work decreased by two percentage points to 54%

  • neither travelled to work nor worked from home increased by two percentage points to 16%

Shopping

The proportions of adults who shopped for food and medicine, and things other than food and medicine, have increased slightly to 73% and 13% respectively. The overall subdued levels of shopping could be attributed to recent national restrictions in England.

Face coverings

The proportion of adults who have used a face covering remained stable at 97%. Further breakdowns such as the situations when a face covering was worn (for example, while shopping) and by the Great Britain countries, will be available in Coronavirus and the social impacts on Great Britain published on 4 December 2020.

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5. 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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6. 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 29 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 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.

There have been minor revisions to the figures for the weeks ending 15 November 2020 and 22 November 2020. These revisions are the result of the use of data available from new more robust web scrapers. This change in methods does not lead to a structural break in the series.

The overall prices of items in the online food and drink basket were unchanged between the week ending 22 November 2020 and the week ending 29 November 2020. Figure 4 presents the contributions to the latest weekly change from each of the main categories of items.

Overall prices have remained unchanged because some product categories experienced price falls, while others experienced offsetting price rises. The main downwards contributor was spirits, which experienced a 1.1% price fall in the latest week. This detracted 0.06 percentage points from the overall price figure. The decline in the price of spirits was mostly because of falling prices of gin, whisky and vodka.

The second largest negative contributor was wine, which saw prices fall by 0.7% in the latest week, detracting 0.05 percentage points from the overall price. This price decrease was driven by falls in all wine items, except for cider. These price falls were led by a single retailer introducing sales across a range of its alcohol products.

The main positive contributor came from milk, cheese and eggs. This category saw prices rise by 0.5% and contributing positive 0.04 percentage points to the overall price figure. Half of this price rise came from yoghurts, while approximately another quarter came from mousse.

Figure 5 with the data 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 2020.

The price index of spirits has been more volatile, and this week’s price fall continues the downward trend that started in early October 2020.

Wine has been above its starting price for almost the entire period but has been experiencing falling prices since early November 2020. This latest week has seen prices fall below their starting point for the first time since June 2020. The fall in alcohol prices could be caused by retailers introducing discounts in time for Christmas shopping.

Since the series began in June 2020, the milk, cheese and eggs category has experienced minor fluctuations but has almost always stayed within one percentage point of its starting point. This price index is now very close to where it was at the beginning of June 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.

Users should be aware that we have changed the presentation of our online job search data to show the percentage change from the same week in the previous year of each category. This replaces our previous analyses which compared the current period with a whole of 2019 average and removes some of the seasonality that previous comparisons may have contained. Users should also be aware that the 2019 average data will still be published alongside the percentage change from the same week in the previous year.

Figure 6: Between 20 November and 27 November 2020, total online job adverts increased by six percentage points but are still only 77% of the level seen in the same week last year

Total weekly job adverts on Adzuna, UK, 4 January 2019 to 27 November 2020, 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 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.

In the latest week, total online job adverts saw a weekly increase of six percentage points but are still only 77% of the level seen in the same week last year. "Catering and hospitality" saw a slight increase of two percentage points from last week; however, it still has the lowest comparable volume at only 27% of online job adverts compared with last year.

Healthcare is the category with the highest volume of job adverts compared with last year, increasing by 12 percentage points to 92% of the level seen in the same week last year.

Excluding the "unknown" category, in comparison with the previous week, the number of online job adverts increased in 27 of the Adzuna categories, decreased in one category and stayed the same in the remaining two. The largest weekly increase came from "domestic help", which increased by 32 percentage points, followed by "facilities and maintenance", which increased by 19 percentage points on the week.

The only decrease in online job adverts was in "legal" which saw a slight decrease. Please note the trends of all the categories discussed can be seen in the accompanying dataset.

Figure 7: Online job adverts for all UK regions increased in the latest week

Total weekly job adverts on Adzuna, UK, 4 January 2019 to 27 November 2020, 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 as a result of 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.

  2. The October 2020 spike and most recent weekly increase in the Northern Ireland series should be treated with caution because of the increased coverage from a year ago.

In the latest week, the volume of job adverts increased in all regions of the UK. London remains the region with the lowest volume of online job adverts compared with the same week in the previous year, at 63% of its level in the same period 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 29 November 2020 was compared with Sunday 1 December 2019.

Figure 8 shows that in the latest week (week ending 29 November 2020), the overall seven-day average footfall remained similar to the previous week, at 43% of the level seen the same day last year. This remains above the spring lockdown low point seen in the week ending 12 April 2020.

Footfall across all retail locations in the UK decreased slightly compared with the previous week, falling three percentage points in both retail parks and shopping centres to 68% and 34% of levels seen the same week in 2019, respectively.

Figure 9 shows the volume of footfall in each English region and UK country compared with the same day the previous year. On Sunday 29 November 2020, footfall in Northern Ireland decreased to 28% of the footfall seen on the same day last year.

This decrease coincides with the circuit breaker coming into force in Northern Ireland from 27 November 2020. Among the measures was the closure of all retail businesses except for essential retail. The day before the introduction of the circuit breaker, overall footfall peaked at 102% of the footfall seen on the same day last year because of a surge in retail activity.

In the latest week (week ending 29 November 2020), footfall in Scotland decreased 13 percentage points on the previous week to around 50% of levels seen the same time last year. This coincides with Scotland's First Minister announcement on 25 November 2020, where 11 areas in west and central Scotland were placed in the highest level of the country's five-tier system of coronavirus restrictions, where only essential retail is allowed to remain open.

Footfall in Wales has remained similar to the previous week and decreased slightly across all English regions except the East of England.

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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9. 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 Monday 30 November 2020, road traffic levels across all vehicle categories remained similar to the previous week. Road traffic across total motor vehicles was 20 percentage points lower than the first Monday in February 2020, but two percentage points higher than the previous week.

Traffic volumes for both light commercial vehicles and heavy goods vehicles increased by two percentage points when compared with the previous week, while the level of car traffic increased by one percentage point.

Other than heavy goods vehicles, traffic volumes in all vehicle categories remain considerably lower than before 5 November 2020, when national restrictions began in England.

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: 

Figure 11: In the week ending 29 November 2020, average counts of all traffic camera activity decreased in Northern Ireland, except cars, when compared with the previous week

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

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

  4. Greater Manchester moved into Tier 3 "very high" coronavirus alert level on 23 October 2020. London moved into Tier 2 on 16 October 2020. Northern Ireland introduced a four week "circuit breaker" with additional restrictions on 16 October 2020 and a further two-week circuit breaker from Friday 27 November 2020.

  5. From Thursday 5 November until Wednesday 2 December 2020, England entered a period of national restrictions which, among other measures, asked the public to stay at home, except for specific purposes, and closed certain businesses and venues. This included pubs, bars, dine-in restaurants and non-essential retail.

In the latest week (week ending 29 November 2020), all categories of road traffic camera activity in Northern Ireland have decreased except cars. However, from Thursday 26 November 2020, counts of cars saw a large drop, which coincides with Northern Ireland's introduction of a further two-week circuit breaker coming into effect on Friday 27 November 2020. In the few days preceding the new restrictions in Northern Ireland, car traffic saw a spike, which could be attributed to a surge in shopping activity.

In London, in the latest week (week ending 29 November 2020), average counts of all traffic categories increased when compared with the previous week.

However, all counts of traffic except motorbikes remain below pre-March 2020 lockdown levels. Motorbikes saw a weekly increase to 110% of the average level seen pre-March 2020 lockdown. Levels of pedestrians and cyclists and buses remain below pre-March 2020 lockdown levels at 93% and 90% respectively.

In Greater Manchester, counts of all traffic except cars and buses decreased compared with the previous week. Counts of trucks decreased to 90% of the level seen in the previous week while pedestrians and cyclists, and vans decreased to 96% and 94% of last week's level respectively.

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10. Shipping

These shipping indicators are based on counts of all vessels, cargo and tanker vessels and passenger 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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11. Data

Weekly and daily shipping indicators
Dataset | Released 3 December 2020
The weekly and daily shipping indicators dataset associated with the faster indicators of UK economic activity.

Online job advert estimates
Dataset | Released 3 December 2020
Experimental job advert indices covering the UK job market.

Traffic camera activity
Dataset | Released 3 December 2020
Experimental dataset for busyness indices covering the UK.

Online weekly price changes
Dataset | Released 3 December 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.

Business Impact of COVID-19 Survey (BICS) results
Dataset | Released 3 December 2020
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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12. 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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13. 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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14. 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