Coronavirus and the latest indicators for the UK economy and society: 4 February 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.

This is not the latest release. View latest release

Cyswllt:
Email Issie Davies

Dyddiad y datganiad:
4 February 2021

Cyhoeddiad nesaf:
11 February 2021

1. Main points

  • According to the indicator derived from the Bank of England's Clearing House Automated Payment System (CHAPS) data, in the week to 28 January 2021, aggregate debit and credit card purchases increased by 3 percentage points from the previous week to 32% below its February 2020 average, with rises in all four consumption categories. See Section 3.

  • According to initial results from the Business Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Survey, over 1 in 10 (12%) currently trading UK businesses said that turnover had decreased by more than 50% compared with what is normally expected for this time of year. See Section 4.

  • According to the latest Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (week ending 31 January), 36% of working adults in Great Britain worked exclusively from home in the last seven days, compared with 34% for the week ending 24 January 2021; this is the highest proportion since June 2020. See Section 5.

  • According to exactEarth, there was an average of 290 daily ships visits in the week ending 31 January 2021, an increase on the previous week (267) and a return to pre-Christmas 2020 levels, but lower than the same period a year ago (389). See Section 6.

  • According to Springboard, in the week ending 31 January 2021, overall footfall was broadly unchanged from last week, at 35% of the volume seen in the same week a year ago. See Section 7.

  • According to Adzuna, between 22 and 29 January 2021, London saw the largest fall in volume of online job adverts across all UK countries and regions. See Section 8.

  • According to Companies House, in the week to 29 January 2021, there were 5,667 voluntary dissolutions, a 17% increase compared with the previous week, but still lower than the number observed in the same week of 2020. See Section 9.

  • Overall prices of items in the food and drink basket decreased by 0.1% in the week ending 31 January 2021. See Section 10.

  • According to the Department for Transport (DfT), on Monday 1 February 2021, the road traffic volume of all vehicles increased by 5 percentage points when compared with the Monday of 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 through physical and 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. In aggregate, this indicator was on average 4% greater in December 2020 than in February 2020. The 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 is expected, coinciding with the intensifying of coronavirus (COVID-19)-related restrictions over December, building up to lockdown once more across most of the UK by 5 January 2021.

In the week to 28 January 2021, the CHAPS-based indicator of credit and debit card purchases in aggregate increased by 3 percentage points from the previous week to 32% below its February 2020 average. This was driven by rises in all four individual consumption category levels since the previous week. In the latest week, "staple" purchases were 3% higher than the February 2020 average, while "delayable", "social" and "work-related" purchases were 46%, 51% and 41% below levels seen in February 2020, respectively.

The full 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. Business impact of the coronavirus

Initial results from Wave 23 of the Business Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Survey (BICS) covers the reference period 11 January to 24 January 2021, with a response rate of 21.8% (8,618 responses). The survey was live for the period 25 January to 2 February 2021.

These dates should be kept in mind in relation to local and national lockdown measures in place during the reference period and the date when the business responded, as this could have an impact on the estimates.

Figure 2: 18% of the workforce of all UK businesses (excluding those permanently ceased trading) were furloughed, broadly unchanged from 17% in the previous wave

Headline indicators from the Business Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) survey (BICS), 11 January to 2 February 2021

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Notes:
  1. Initial weighted results, Wave 23 of Office for National Statistics' (ONS') Business Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Survey.

  2. Businesses were asked for their experiences for the reference period (11 to 24 January 2021). However, for questions regarding the last two weeks (furlough estimates), businesses may respond from the point of completion of the questionnaire (25 January to 2 February 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 23:

  • 70% of businesses had been trading for more than the last two weeks (up from 67% in Wave 22)

  • 2% of businesses had started trading within the last two weeks after a pause in trading (a decrease from 4% in Wave 22)

  • 3% of businesses had paused trading but intend to restart in the next two weeks (broadly unchanged from 4% in Wave 22)

  • 22% of businesses had paused trading and do not intend to restart in the next two weeks (broadly unchanged from 23% in Wave 22)

  • 3% of businesses had permanently ceased trading (unchanged from Wave 22)

Table 1 shows the financial performance of businesses currently trading

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5. Social impact of the coronavirus

This section includes some provisional results from the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN) covering the period 27 to 31 January 2021. The survey went out to 6,029 adults in Great Britain and had a response rate of 78%.

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 5 February 2021.

Travelling to work

In the week ending 31 January 2021, the proportion of working adults in Great Britain who in the last seven days:

  • travelled to work (both exclusively and in combination with working from home) remained broadly unchanged with the previous period (week ending 24 January) at 46%

  • worked exclusively from home increased slightly by two percentage points to 36%; this is the highest proportion since June 2020

  • neither travelled to work nor worked from home remained broadly unchanged at 18%

Shopping

Of the 9 in 10 (90%) adults that reported they had left home in the last seven days, the proportion that did so to shop for food and medicine remained similar to the previous period at 73%.

The proportion of these adults who shopped for things other than food or medicine in the last seven days also remained similar at 6%; the continued low level coincides with the ongoing lockdowns throughout the UK.

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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.

Since reaching a low of 191 visits in the week over the Christmas period, the seven-day average of all daily shipping visits has increased from 267 last week to 290 visits in the latest week, ending 31 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 389 visits recorded in the week ending 2 February 2020.

Since reaching a low of 70 visits over the Christmas period, the seven-day average of daily cargo ship visits has increased from 96 to 101 visits in the latest week, ending 31 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 119 visits recorded in the week ending 2 February 2020.

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7. 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 31 January 2021 was compared with Sunday 2 February 2020.

From this publication onwards we are including week-on-week retail footfall figures, supplied by Springboard. These show the percentage change in footfall volumes when compared with the previous week, across the categories of high streets, retail parks and shopping centres.

According to Springboard, in the week ending 31 January 2021, overall retail footfall was at 35% of its level compared with the equivalent week of 2020. This is broadly unchanged from the equivalent figure for the week ending 24 January 2021.

Footfall at retail parks continues its relative strength compared with high streets and shopping centres, with footfall in the week ending 31 January 2021 equivalent to 61% of its level in the same period of 2020. The corresponding figures for high streets and shopping centres both remained broadly unchanged at 27%.

Footfall at high streets decreased by 2% between the week ending 24 January and 31 January 2021. This reverses the trend from last week when high street footfall rose by 11%, the first time it had done so since December 2020. Weekly footfall at retail parks increased by 5% over the period, and at shopping centres it increased by 1% when compared with the previous week.

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8. 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 22 January and 29 January 2021, the volume of UK online job adverts increased by 4 percentage points from the previous week to 78% of the level seen in the same week last year

Total weekly job adverts on Adzuna, UK 4 January 2019 to 29 January 2021, percentage compared with 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 week ending 29 January 2021, the volume of UK online job adverts increased by 4 percentage points from the previous week to 78% of the level seen in the same week last year.

Excluding the “unknown” category, online job adverts increased in 22 out of the 28 categories from the previous week. “Legal” saw the largest weekly increase of 17 percentage points, followed by “domestic help”, which saw a weekly increase of 14 percentage points, and “scientific/QA”, which saw an increase of 12 percentage points. The volume of job adverts for “catering and hospitality” remained unchanged from the previous week and continues to be the lowest volume of job adverts when compared with its level last year, at 24%.

The “part-time/weekend” category saw the largest weekly decline of 23 percentage points to 61% of its level seen last year, its lowest since the week ending 25 September 2020. However, the large decrease can be in part attributed to a significant number of adverts from a single recruiter that has dropped compared with the previous week.

Figure 7: Between 22 January and 29 January 2021, the volume of online job adverts in London fell substantially by 22 percentage points to 63% of its level in the same week of last year

Total weekly job averts on Adzuna, UK, 4 January 2019 to 29 January 2021, percentage compared with 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 week ending 29 January 2021, of the 12 UK regions and countries, seven regions saw a decrease in the volume of online job adverts while the remaining five saw an increase. The volume of online job adverts in London fell by 22 percentage points to 63% of its volume when compared with the same week last year. This follows last week’s large weekly increase to 85% of its level when compared with last year and brings its volume back down to below the average level seen across all regions. This was followed by the North East which saw a weekly decline of 14 percentage points to 91% of its level last year.

Northern Ireland saw the largest weekly increase of 19 percentage points in online job adverts. The continued increase in recent weeks can be in-part attributed to the hiring growth in two dominant sectors. The East of England, which had been on a downward trend since the new year, saw a weekly increase of 10 percentage points to 74% of its level in the same week of last year.

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9. Company incorporations and voluntary dissolution applications

Incorporations

According to Companies House data, in the week to Friday 29 January 2021, there were 16,108 company incorporations in the UK, a slight increase from 15,905 seen in the previous week. This is higher than the number of incorporations seen in the fifth week of both 2019 and 2020, when 14,434 and 12,660 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 29 January 2021, there were 5,667 voluntary company dissolution applications, up by 17% from 4,828 reported in the previous week. However, this is still lower than the number of voluntary company dissolutions observed in the fifth week of 2019 and 2020, when there were 6,117 and 6,418 respectively.

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10. 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 31 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.

The overall prices of items in the online food and drink basket decreased by 0.1% between the week ending 24 January 2021 and the week ending 31 January 2021.

The main downward contributor to the overall price movement in the latest week was “sugar, jam, syrup, chocolate and confectionery”, which saw its price fall by 1.5%, and contributed negative 0.14 percentage points to the overall price movement. This price decrease was mostly due to the falling price of chocolate at a few retailers.

The main offsetting category was “bread and cereals” which experienced a 1.3% price increase and contributed positive 0.18 percentage points to the overall price rise. Breakfast cereal was the main driver behind this price movement due to price increases across most retailers.

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11. 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 1 February 2021, the volume of all motor vehicle traffic increased by 5 percentage points when compared with the previous week and was at 66% of the level observed on the same day of the first week in February 2020. Despite this increase, overall traffic volume remains below pre-Christmas levels.

On Monday 1 February 2021, road traffic volumes of cars increased by 5 percentage points compared with the previous week to 59% of the levels seen on the equivalent day last year. Heavy goods vehicle (HGV) and light commercial vehicle traffic levels both increased by 4 percentage points to 98% and 81% of the volume seen in February 2020, respectively.

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:

Note that for this week, data for Durham have been excluded due to quality concerns.

Please also note that due to a camera outage on 28 January 2021, the values for that date onwards in Greater Manchester have been removed.

Table 2 shows the average proportion (%) of all road activity in the latest week ending 31 January 2021 compared with the previous week for London, Northern Ireland and the North East.

Table 3 shows the average proportion (percentage) of all road activity in the North East and London in the latest week ending 31 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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12. Data

UK spending on credit and debit cards
Dataset | Released 4 February 2021
These data series are experimental faster indicators for monitoring UK retail purchases.

Weekly and daily shipping indicators
Dataset | Released 4 February 2021
The weekly and daily shipping indicators dataset associated with the faster indicators of UK economic activity.

Traffic camera activity
Dataset | Released 4 February 2021
Experimental dataset for busyness indices covering the UK.

Online weekly price changes
Dataset | Released 4 February 2021 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 4 February 2021
Experimental job advert indices covering the UK job market.

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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.

UK regional lockdown restrictions

This is a summary of the changes in coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions in each of the four UK constituent countries between Monday 25 January 2021 and Monday 1 February 2021.

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

Lockdown restrictions as of Monday 25 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.

29 January 2021

Scotland

All outstanding area of the Western Isles move into level four (lockdown) COVID restrictions.

Methodology

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

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