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.

We explain the reasons behind each change as much as possible, although it can be difficult to separate the impacts of different things such as Brexit and COVID-19.

For an overview of our main economic indicators, visit our dashboard.

This page was last updated at 07:00 on 24 May 2022.

April borrowing lower than last year

24 May 2022

Public sector net borrowing was £18.6 billion in April 2022, £5.6 billion below April 2021, but £7.9 billion more than in April 2019, before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. These figures exclude public sector banks.

Government spending was £76.0 billion in April 2022, £6.7 billion less than a year earlier. The additional £3.0 billion cost of the Council Tax Rebate was offset by reductions in other areas of expenditure, such as subsidies and transfers to local government.

Central government receipts were £70.2 billion in April 2022, £9.9 billion more than the same period the previous year. Last month’s tax receipts were £50.5 billion, £5.5 billion more than April last year.

Public sector debt was £2,347.7 billion at the end of April 2022, or around 95.7% of GDP. This is an increase of £179.1 billion, or 0.9 percentage points of GDP, since April 2021.

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Retail sales volumes rose in April 2022 but have fallen over the longer term

20 May 2022

Retail sales volumes (or the quantity bought) rose by 1.4% in April 2022, following a fall of 1.2% the previous month.

More broadly, sales volumes decreased by 0.3% in the three months to April 2022 compared with the previous three months, continuing a downward trend since spring 2021. Despite this, sales volumes in April 2022 were 4.1% higher than February 2020 (pre-coronavirus) levels.

The rise in retail sales volumes in April was driven by a 2.8% increase in food store sales, following falls in the previous five months. This was mostly because of increased purchases of alcohol and tobacco in supermarkets.

Non-store retailing sales volumes, which are predominantly sales from online-only retailers, rose by 3.7% in April 2022 led by stronger clothing sales.

Fuel sales rose by 1.4% in April following a fall of 4.2% the previous month, when record increases in petrol prices impacted sales.

Non-food stores sales volumes fell by 0.6%, with reduced sales in “other non-food stores” such as antiques stores and jewellery stores, and household goods stores such as furniture stores.

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Annual growth of hourly earnings rose for job changers in April 2021

19 May 2022

In April 2021, average annual hourly earnings growth was 6.6 percentage points higher for employees who had changed jobs compared with those who stayed in their jobs.

However, those who have stayed at their job for longer than a year still consistently earned more than those who changed jobs. In April 2021, average hourly earnings were 17% higher for stayers, based on data from the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings.

Average annual hourly earnings growth was 6.6 percentage points higher for job changers who had not been furloughed at any point between April 2020 and April 2021, compared with those who had been furloughed.

Job changers who switched industries, occupations, or region as well as changed jobs experienced higher average annual earnings growth than those who moved jobs within their industry, occupation, or region.

Newly released data also show employees aged 16 to 24 years not only change jobs more often than those aged 25 to 49 years but also have higher average annual earnings growth when they do.

Younger people on average experience higher annual earnings growth when they change jobs

Median annual growth of hourly earnings for job changers and stayers, by age group, UK, April 2012 to April 2021

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Accommodation and food services continue to report the highest proportion of businesses with worker shortages

19 May 2022

In early May 2022, businesses that had not permanently stopped trading were asked if their businesses were currently experiencing a shortage of workers. 

In early May 2022, of businesses that had not permanently stopped trading, 13% reported a shortage of workers, compared with 14% in early April 2022. The accommodation and food service activities industry continued to report the highest proportion of businesses experiencing worker shortages. However , at 34% this was down from 37% in early April 2022. Some businesses from across this industry commented they are experiencing a lack of kitchen staff, such as chefs.

Among all businesses, the most-reported effects of these worker shortages were:

  • businesses being unable to meet demands, at 50%, unchanged from early April 2022
  • employees working increased hours, at 40%, down from 43% in early April 2022
  • pausing trading of some of the business, at 16%, down from 20% in early April 2022
  • recruiting temporary workers, at 16%, up from 13% in early April 2022

When excluding businesses with fewer than 10 employees, the percentage of affected businesses that reported they were unable to meet demands or had to pause some of the businesses trading was lower, at 45% and 13%, respectively. In comparison, percentages for employees working increased hours or businesses having to recruit temporary workers, were higher, at 56% and 23%, respectively.

Further details, including the full list of concerns broken down by industry and size band, are available in our accompanying dataset.

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System Average Price of gas decreased by 46%

19 May 2022

The seven-day rolling average System Average Price (SAP) of gas decreased by 46% in the week to 15 May 2022.

The SAP level is now 14% of that on 10 March 2022, when prices peaked in the rolling seven-day series. Additionally, the SAP is 7% lower compared with the same period last year in the week ending 16 May 2021 according to data from the National Grid.

In consumer behaviour indicators falls were largely seen this week. UK credit and debit card spending decreased by 6 percentage points, seated diners decreased by 10 percentage points and visits to “retail and recreation” locations fell by 3%. Meanwhile, the number of transactions increased in most Pret A Manger regional categories. Users should note that comparisons are made with the previous week, which included the May bank holiday.

According to data from Adzuna and HM Revenue and Customs, total online job adverts decreased by 3% in the week to 13 May 2022, to 133% of their February 2020 average level. Meanwhile, there was an easing in the net balance of businesses reporting a monthly increase in turnover in April 2022 compared with the previous month.

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Energy price cap increase leads price rises in April

18 May 2022

Consumer prices rose by 7.8% in the 12 months to April 2022, according to the lead measure of the Consumer Prices Index including owner occupiers’ housing costs (CPIH). This is up from 6.2% in the 12 months to March 2022.

The Consumer Prices Index (CPI) rose to 9.0% in April 2022 from 7.0% in March 2022.

The largest upward contribution to the rise in the 12-month inflation rate came from housing and household services. This effect predominantly came from electricity, gas and other fuels, reflecting the increase in the Ofgem price cap, which increased on 1 April 2022.

The second largest contribution came from restaurants and hotels, largely from restaurants, cafes and dancing establishments. This is consistent with the increase in Value Added Tax (VAT) from 12.5% to 20% on 1 April 2022. However, it should be noted that many restaurant and hotels items were imputed last year because of coronavirus lockdowns. The results for this division should therefore be interpreted with caution.

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