This page provides commentary and charts on the latest changes in the UK economy, using novel and rapid data sources as well as official statistics.
Latest headlines27 January 2023
- Turnover falls among almost one in three trading businesses
- Trade with Russia has plummeted following sanctions
- Productivity above 2019 average in July to September 2022
- Out-of-town employment growing fastest
- Just over a quarter of the UK workforce are night-time workers
- December borrowing highest on record
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This page was last updated at 09:30 on 27 January 2023.
Fifth of adults affected by rail strikes
27 January 2023
Around one in five adults in Great Britain (19%) say their travel plans had been disrupted by rail strikes in recent weeks.
That is according to survey data collected between 11 and 22 January 2023, which show a similar proportion (18%) said the same in the previous survey period covering Christmas and New Year.
Data collected between 7 to 18 December 2022 also show that 31% of working adults with children in school said they would have to work fewer hours if schools closed because of strike action, while 28% said that they would not be able to work.
However, 41% said their work would not be affected.
In the latest survey period, more than 9 in 10 adults (93%) said the cost of living is an important issue facing the UK.
However, that was closely followed by the NHS with 89% of adults saying it was an important issue, which was up from 81% among those asked a month earlier.
Around three in four (76%) said the economy, 59% said climate change and the environment, while 45% reported industrial action as an important issue in the UK today.
- Read our latest Public opinions and social trends, Great Britain bulletin
Turnover falls among almost one in three trading businesses
26 January 2023
Almost a third (30%) of trading businesses reported their turnover had fallen in December 2022 compared with the previous month.
This was highest among the wholesale and retail trade industry, with almost half (46%) reporting their turnover had fallen, according to data collected between 9 and 22 January 2023. Meanwhile, 13% said their turnover had increased.
Costs are also increasing for some businesses. A quarter (25%) of businesses not permanently stopped trading said their staffing costs had increased over the previous three months.
Around two in five (41%) trading businesses reported an increase in the prices of goods or services they had bought in December 2022 compared with the previous month.
Almost a quarter (23%) of businesses reported their overall performance, including pricing, trading and workforce, had fallen in December 2022 compared with December 2021.
- Read our latest Business Insights and impact on the UK economy bulletin
Trade with Russia has plummeted following sanctions
26 January 2023
UK trade with Russia has fallen to historically low levels following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 and the subsequent Russian economic sanctions on trade from February 2022.
The sanctions include bans on importing metals, fuel, wood products, high-end goods such as caviar, as well as further duties to a range of other goods.
This has led to imports of goods from Russia falling to £18 million in November 2022, a decrease of 98.2% compared with the monthly average from the 12 months to February 2022. Imports of fuel from Russia remain historically low with only £9.2 million imported in November 2022, a fall of 98.1%.
Imports of goods from Russia have decreased substantially
Imports of goods from Russia in millions, January 2021 to November 2022
- The UK Government has applied a series of sanctions on imports of goods from Russia (PDF, 837KB), with the first import bans implemented on 14 April 2022.
Exports of goods to Russia have decreased to £57 million, a fall of 77.4%. Exports of most commodities to Russia had decreased notably by November 2022. The largest decrease by value was seen in exports of machinery and transport equipment, which fell by £127.7 million (98.5%) when compared with the 12 months to February 2022.
Medicinal and pharmaceutical products, which are exempt from export bans, made up 50.9% of total exports to Russia in November 2022, up from 9.5% in the 12 months to February 2022.
The economic sanctions applied by the UK Government are likely to have driven the decreases in trade with Russia. However, self-sanctioning (whereby traders voluntarily seek alternatives to trading with Russian enterprises) is also likely a factor.
Productivity above 2019 average in July to September 2022
26 January 2023
Labour productivity in the UK, measured as output per hour worked, was 1.6% higher than the 2019 (pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic) average in Quarter 3 (July to September) 2022.
This growth was driven by a 1.2% fall in the number of hours worked, with output only seeing a marginal increase of 0.3%.
Compared with Quarter 2 (April to June) 2022, output per hour increased by 0.1% in Quarter 3 2022.
The manufacturing, construction, and administrative services industries made the biggest positive contribution to productivity growth compared with 2019. By contrast, the public services, and wholesale and retail industries negatively contributed to productivity growth.
Public service productivity has remained mostly steady since spring 2021, but is still 7.4% below its pre-coronavirus levels.
Poorest see drop in median income
25 January 2023
The median household disposable income of the poorest fifth of the UK population has decreased to £14,500 – a 3.8% drop.
For the richest fifth of the population, income increased during the same period, the financial year ending (FYE) 2022. It went up by 1.6% to £66,000.
The increase for the richest fifth of people followed a reduction of 1.0% during FYE 2021.
Meanwhile, in the 10 years leading up to FYE 2022, income in this group increased at an average rate of 1.2% per year.
In FYE 2022, median household disposable income in the UK was £32,300, a decrease of 0.6% from FYE 2021, based on estimates from our Household Finances Survey.
Income estimates for FYE 2021 and FYE 2022 were affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the range of financial support measures introduced to alleviate potential financial pressures.
Out-of-town employment growing fastest
24 January 2023
Out-of-town areas have seen employment grow at higher rates than in towns and large cities over the last decade.
Employment in out-of-town locations across England and Wales grew by 20% between 2009 and 2021, compared with 7% in towns and 14% in large cities (excluding London).
This was the case in most parts of England and Wales, with the growth rate for employment greater out of town in 140 out of 173 locations, known as Travel to Work Areas.
However, the vast majority (87%) of employment growth in out-of-town locations happened within 2 kilometres of town or city boundaries, meaning it is likely to have included growth in business and retail parks.
Overall, towns accounted for 52% of total employment in England and Wales in 2021, compared with 14% for out-of-town locations, 19% in London and 15% in large cities.
Just over a quarter of the UK workforce are night-time workers
24 January 2023
The total number of night-time workers went from 8.6 million in 2021 to 8.7 million in 2022 but has fallen from 9.5 million in 2016.
Someone is deemed a night-time worker if they "usually" work either in the evening or the night, irrespective of whether they also "usually" work in the day. By this definition, 26.7% of the workforce were night-time workers in 2022, down from a maximum of 30.8% in 2014.
The largest numbers of night-time workers are in the human health and social work activities sector, at 4.3% of the entire UK workforce. This is followed by accommodation and food service activities and wholesale and retail, where night-time workers make up 2.7% of all UK workers.
The night-time economy relies heavily on people born outside of the UK: between 2012 and 2022, the number of night-time workers born outside of the UK rose by 32.6% to 2.0 million. In the 24-hour health and personal services grouping of industries, this number rose by 69.1% to 0.5 million.
December borrowing highest on record
24 January 2023
The public sector spent more than it received in taxes and other income in December 2022, requiring it to borrow £27.4 billion.
That was the highest December figure since monthly records began and was largely driven by a sharp rise in government spending on energy support schemes and an increase in debt interest payable.
The interest payable on central government debt for the month was £17.3 billion, which is the highest for December on record and the second largest in any single month behind the £20.0 billion recorded in June 2022.
The interest payable on central government debt increases with inflation, as a significant chunk of the debt is linked to the Retail Prices Index. That means recent substantial rises in energy prices have pushed interest costs to record levels.
The £27.4 billion additional borrowing in December brings the total borrowed in the financial year-to-December 2022 to £128.1 billion, which was £5.1 billion more than that borrowed in the same period of 2021 but £2.7 billion less than the official forecast.
Debt at the end of December was £2.5 trillion (£2,503.6 billion) or 99.5% of the UK’s annual gross domestic product (GDP).
Volume of sales fell again in December 2022
20 January 2023
Retail sales volumes (quantity bought) fell by 1.0% in December 2022, following a fall of 0.5% in November.
December’s drop took sales volumes to 1.7% below the pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) level of February 2020. However, in terms of value spent, retail sales had risen 13.6% over the same period.
The volume sold at food stores fell by 0.3% in December 2022, after a rise of 1.0% in November, when customers may have stocked up early for Christmas. The latest decline continues a downward trend since the lifting of restrictions on hospitality in summer 2021.
The volume sold at non-food stores fell by 2.1% in December 2022. Department stores’ sales volumes fell by 3.1% after a rise of 2.1% in November when retailers reported longer Black Friday sales.
Other non-food stores reported a monthly fall in sales volumes of 6.2% because of strong falls in cosmetics stores, sports equipment, games and toys stores and watches and jewellery stores.
- Read our full bulletin about Retail sales; Great Britain