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.
- GDP saw growth in every region and country in the UK in Quarter 3 (July to Sept) 2020 but remained below pre-pandemic levels
- The UK government deficit has increased more quickly than the EU average during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic
- Industries related to pharmaceuticals were among those that have performed best throughout the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic
This page was last updated at 09:30 on 5 May 2021.
GDP saw growth in every region and country in the UK in Quarter 3 (July to Sept) 2020 but remained below pre-pandemic levels
5 May 2021
In Quarter 3 (July to Sept) 2020, GDP across all countries in the UK grew as lockdown restrictions were eased, following record contractions in Quarter 2. GDP growth in Quarter 3 in England (17.2%) exceeded the UK average of 16.9%, while the growth rates in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales were 15.8%, 15.4% and 14.4% respectively.
It should be noted that estimates for Scotland and Northern Ireland are taken from the second estimate of Quarter 3 published on 17 February 2021 by the Scottish Government and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) initial estimate of Quarter 3 published 14 January 2021.
All nine English regions experienced growth in Quarter 3 2020 with the fastest growth seen in the South West (19.9%). London had the lowest growth rate of the English regions (13.3%) in Quarter 3 2020 after experiencing the smallest decrease in growth rate in Quarter 2 (Apr to June) 2020.
When compared with the same period a year ago, GDP in Quarter 3 2020 was lower for all regions and despite renewed growth, UK GDP fell by 7.5%. The largest decrease in GDP was the West Midlands (11.3%), while Northern Ireland experienced the smallest decrease of 2.9%.
The UK government deficit has increased more quickly than the EU average during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic
30 April 2021
In Quarter 4 (October to December) 2020, the general government deficit was £65.3 billion, equivalent to 11.9% of gross domestic product (GDP). The deficit (or net borrowing) is the difference between the spending of the government, and their income, such as tax receipts and National Insurance contributions. This is 4.9 percentage points above the average of the 27 EU member states for the same period.
The deficit has also increased more quickly than the EU average since the start of the pandemic, rising 0.9 percentage points further since Quarter 4 2019.
While central government tax revenue was about the same in Quarter 4 2020 as in the same quarter in 2019, central government bodies spent £43.7 billion more. This was partly the result of the £13.0 billion cost of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) in this quarter, as well as increased expenditure by the Department of Health and Social Care, devolved administrations and other departments.
Government debt, the total amount of money owed by the government sector to other sectors, was £315.4 billion higher in Quarter 4 2020 than the same quarter in 2019, and as a percentage of GDP, 13.7 percentage points above the EU average.
Non-essential shopping and seated dining continue to increase
29 April 2021
Seated diner estimates on Saturday 24 April 2021 were at 62% of the level seen on the equivalent Saturday of 2019, according to OpenTable.
This is a 2 percentage point increase from last week and a substantial increase since Saturday 10 April 2021 when its level was 0% because of restaurants and bars still being under coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions at that time.
The Clearing House Automated Payment System (CHAPS)-based indicator of credit and debit card purchases for delayable goods (such as clothing and furnishings) increased by 21 percentage points to 110% of its February 2021 average in the week to 22 April 2021, according to the Bank of England’s CHAPS data.
The proportion of adults who shopped for things other than food or medicine notably increased by 8 percentage points to 28% in the latest week, according to the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey.
This proportion is of the 95% of adults who reported they had left home in the last seven days and covers the week to 25 April 2021.
Industries related to pharmaceuticals were among those that have performed best throughout the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic
26 April 2021
Around 1 in 5 industries included in the Monthly Business Survey (MBS) were “resilient” during the pandemic in 2020. Resilience is defined as industries that had a growth rate of at least negative 2% in total turnover between March to December 2020 and the same period in 2019.
The chart shows how these industries broadly behaved similarly to other industries throughout most of 2019. The two groups classified as resilient saw a large increase in turnover in March 2020 coinciding with the beginning of the pandemic, and subsequently a much smaller fall in April 2020 when compared with the other industries.
Industries associated with pharmaceuticals performed particularly well. Turnover in the manufacture of pharmaceutical preparations and wholesale of pharmaceutical goods increased by 19.4% and 13.5% in March to December 2020, compared with the same period of 2019.
Half of the industries analysed in the education sector were resilient, whereas none were resilient in the accommodation and food and arts, entertainment and recreation sectors. While industries linked to home and garden improvements performed the best, industries such as travel agents, tour operators and cinemas, performed the least well.
Monthly retail sales volumes rose above pre-pandemic levels as restrictions on consumer spending lifted
23 April 2021
Retail sales increased in March 2021, reflecting some easing of coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions on consumer spending. The quantity of goods bought rose by 5.4% compared with February 2021, and the amount spent increased 5.5%.
Sales levels also rose above pre-pandemic levels, with the amount bought 1.6% higher in March 2021 than in February 2020.
Non-food stores were the biggest contributor to growth in March, with clothing stores among the main drivers behind this contribution. Automotive fuel sales volumes also saw a significant monthly rise of 11.1% in March 2021, with government restrictions on travel eased on 29 March.
Highest public sector borrowing in the financial year ending March 2021 since records began in 1947
23 April 2021
This month we published our first provisional estimates of UK public sector finances for the financial year ending (FYE) March 2021.
UK public sector borrowing in FYE March 2021 was estimated to have been £303.1 billion, £246.1 billion more than in FYE March 2020.
While it was £24.3 billion less than official expectations (on a like for like basis), FYE March 2021 saw the highest public sector borrowing in any financial year since records began in 1947.
Borrowing makes up the shortfall between spending by the government and other public sector organisations, and their income such as taxes.
Central government tax receipts are estimated to have been £523.6 billion in FYE March 2021, £34.2 billion lower than in FYE March 2020, with notable falls in taxes on production such as Value Added Tax (VAT), Business Rates, and Fuel Duty.
Over the same period, central government bodies are estimated to have spent £941.7 billion on day-to-day activities (referred to as current expenditure) in FYE March 2021, £203.2 billion more than in FYE March 2020. This growth in spending includes the £78.2 billion cost of the coronavirus job support schemes: the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS).
This substantial increase in borrowing has led to a sharp increase in public sector net debt, which currently stands at 97.7% of gross domestic product (GDP), maintaining a level not seen since the early 1960s.
It is important to note that these are not final figures; they will be revised over the coming months as we replace our initial estimates with provisional and then final outturn data, and as more information on the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic becomes available.