ONS COVID-19 Briefing: Coronavirus and the latest indicators for the UK economy and society

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.

Key Points

  • Aggregate debit and credit card purchases decreased by 3 percentage points from the previous week to 72% of their February 2020 average.
  • 0% of the workforce of all UK businesses were on furlough leave in Wave 24, a slight increase from 18% in the previous wave but considerably lower than during the first national lockdown where 30% of businesses' workforce were on furlough leave in early June 2020 (when comparable estimates began).
  • 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) has decreased by 3 percentage points when compared with the previous period to 44%.
  • there was an average of 248 daily ship visits in the week ending 14 February 2021, a decrease from the previous week (275) and lower than the same period a year ago (319).
  • In the week ending Saturday 13 February 2021, overall UK retail footfall increased by 3 percentage points to 39% of its level when compared with the equivalent week of 2020.
  • In the week ending 12 February 2021, the volume of UK online job adverts increased slightly by 1 percentage point to 81% of the level seen in the same week last year; this was driven by increases in 10 of the 12 UK regions and countries.
  • The overall price of items in the online food and drink basket decreased by 0.2% from the previous week; the main downward contributor to the overall price movement in the latest week was “sugar, jam, syrup, chocolate and confectionery”.
  • On Monday 15 February 2021, the volume of all motor vehicle traffic saw a weekly increase of 8 percentage points to 68% of the level seen in the first week of February 2020.

Context

Latest Indicators at a glance

  • Proportion of workforce on Furlough Leave (of responding businesses) – weekly change of +2.0pp
  • Proportion of workforce at their normal place of work (% of responding businesses) – weekly change of -1.0pp
  • Percentage travelled to work (proportion of adults in survey) – weekly change of -3.0pp
  • Aggregate UK spending on debit and credit cards (% change on backward looking 7-day rolling average, index Feb 20 = 100) – latest change of -3.00pp
  • Company incorporations (no. of incorporations on weekly basis) – weekly change of +5.7pp
  • Company voluntary dissolution applications (no. weekly basis) – weekly change of -5.2pp
  • Total weekly online job adverts (% change from same week a year ago) – latest change of -19.0pp
  • Online price change in food and drinks basket (% point change, index wk1 = 100) – weekly change of -0.2pp
  • Road traffic, all motor vehicles (% point change of weekly average index, equivalent day first week of Feb 20 = 100) – weekly change of +8.0pp
  • Total ships visits (no. daily ship visits, % change of the weekly average) – weekly change of -10.8pp
  • Cargo ships visits (no. daily cargo ship visits, % change of the weekly average) – weekly change of -4.3pp
  • Overall Footfall (% change from same week a year ago) – latest change of -61.4pp

Business impact of the coronavirus

Across all UK industries in Wave 24:

  • 71% of businesses had been trading for more than the last two weeks (broadly unchanged from 70% in Wave 23)
  • 2% of businesses had started trading within the last two weeks after a pause in trading (unchanged from Wave 23)
  • 3% of businesses had paused trading but intend to restart in the next two weeks (broadly unchanged from 4% in Wave 23)
  • 22% of businesses had paused trading and do not intend to restart in the next two weeks (broadly unchanged from 21% in Wave 23)
  • 3% of businesses had permanently ceased trading (unchanged from Wave 23)

Travelling to work

In the week ending 14 February 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) has decreased by 3 percentage points when compared with the previous week to 44%
  • worked exclusively from home remained broadly unchanged with the previous week at 37%, the highest proportion since June 2020
  • neither travelled to work nor worked from home remained similar to the previous week at 18%

Shopping

Of the 91% 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 unchanged compared with the previous period at 76%.

The proportion of these adults who shopped for things other than food and medicine in the last seven days remained unchanged from the previous week at 7%; the continued low level coincides with the ongoing lockdowns throughout the UK.

Online job adverts

According to Adzuna, in the week ending 12 February 2021, the volume of UK online job adverts saw a slight increase of 1 percentage point from the previous week to 81% of the level seen in the same week of last year. This represents the continuation of a trend in increasing online job adverts, when compared with their level last year, since reaching a low of 34% in May 2020.

Excluding the “unknown” category, online job adverts increased in 11 of the 28 Adzuna categories. The most notable was “construction and trades”, which increased by 17 percentage points to 125% of its level seen in the same week of last year. This substantial increase was in part because of a large increase in vacancies from a single company.

Road traffic in Great Britain

According to Department for Transport (DfT) non-seasonally adjusted road traffic data, on Monday 15 February 2021, the volume of all motor vehicle traffic saw a weekly increase of 8 percentage points following the previous week's decline. Comparisons on last week’s figures are likely to be influenced by the impact of snowfall from Storm Darcy.

However, it was still 32 percentage points below the level seen in the first week of February 2020. The overall volume of road traffic continues to remain below pre-Christmas levels.

All categories of road traffic showed increases on the previous week’s figures. The traffic volume of cars increased by 8 percentage points compared with the previous week to 61% of the level seen on the same day of the first week in February 2020, whilst light commercial vehicles and heavy goods vehicles (HGV) increased by 7 and 5 percentage points respectively.

Footfall

National footfall figures are supplied by Springboard, a provider of data on customer activity. They measure 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 the previous year; for example, Sunday 14 February 2021 is compared with Sunday 9 February 2020
  • total weekly retail footfall as a percentage of its level in the equivalent week of the prior year; for example, footfall in Week 6 of 2021 is compared with its level in Week 6 of 2020
  • the percentage change in weekly footfall compared with the previous week; for example, Week 6 of 2021 is compared with Week 5 of 2021
  • Springboard’s weekly data are defined over a seven-day period running from Sunday to Saturday; Week 6 of 2021 therefore refers to the period Sunday 7 to Saturday 13 February 2021

In the week ending Saturday 13 February 2021, overall UK retail footfall was at 39% of its level compared with the equivalent week of 2020. This is an increase of 3 percentage points when compared with the equivalent index in the previous week.

In the same seven-day period footfall at retail parks was at 66% of its level compared with the equivalent week of 2020. This is an increase of 4 percentage points compared with the previous week and is the highest figure recorded for the retail category since 2020. Footfall also rose at high streets and shopping centres, increasing by 3 and 2 percentage points respectively to 31% and 29% of its level in the equivalent week of 2020.

However, week-on-week changes in retail footfall between the weeks to 6 and 13 January 2021 were mixed across retail locations. Footfall at UK high streets fell by 2% between these periods, whereas it increased by 6% and 4% at retail parks and shopping centres respectively.