1. Overview of faster indicators data

During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we have been providing timely indicators of the effect of the disease on the UK economy and society in our Coronavirus and the latest indicators for the UK economy and society bulletin.

These statistics have been produced quickly in response to developing world events. The Office for Statistics Regulation, on behalf of the UK Statistics Authority, has reviewed them against several important aspects of the Code of Practice for Statistics and regards them as consistent with the Code’s pillars of Trustworthiness, Quality and Value.

The faster indicators are compiled using a variety of different data sources. On a regular basis, the following indicators are included:

  • Business Impact of Coronavirus Survey (BICS), looking at the economic impact of the coronavirus
  • Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN), looking at the social impact of the coronavirus
  • experimental online job advert indices covering the UK job market, using data from job advert aggregating website Adzuna
  • experimental online price indices for high-demand products (HDPs)
  • monthly Value Added Tax (VAT) diffusion indexes and new VAT reporters using data from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) VAT returns
  • weekly and daily shipping data from exactEarth using the UN Global Platform
  • daily indices of footfall in retail destinations at a UK level, using data from Springboard, a provider of data on customer activity

New experimental data and indices are included as and when new data become available, either on a stand-alone or regular basis as appropriate, with the relevant methodology information listed on this page.

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2. How we measure faster indicators

This section details how we measure the various faster indicators included in the bulletin with links to more detailed methodology pages where required. It will be updated regularly as new indicators are added to the bulletin or methodological improvements are made to existing indicators.

Footfall

Springboard’s footfall data are captured via a network of automated counters located in high streets, shopping centres and retail parks across the UK. The counter employs technology that identifies humans within a defined “zone” and logs each human as a number in a file. The counters operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week and data are captured continuously. The technology is highly accurate and able to identify individual humans even where there are very large volumes of people.

Types of establishment included and not included

Springboard’s footfall data include footfall within three main types of retail destination – high streets, shopping centres and retail parks. It does not include footfall in leisure and sports venues, conference venues, transport interchanges, motorway service stations, art galleries, museums and historic monuments.

Definitions

Shopping centre

A shopping centre is a space, fully owned and managed by a single landlord, which can be fully or partially enclosed or completely open but does not form part of the public highway. A shopping centre is distinguished from a retail park by a smaller unit size.

High street

High street refers to a town centre rather than a shopping centre (defined previously). It is the central part or main business and commercial area of a town, comprising the high street, which is the traditional site for the majority of shops, banks, and other businesses.

Retail park or shopping park

A retail park or shopping park is a space wholly owned and managed by a single landlord, solely comprising retail warehouse units and generally comprising a minimum of 30,000 square feet of retail space. Retail parks have a minority of units occupied by traditional high street non-food retailers, while in a shopping park the majority of units are occupied by high street non-food retailers.

Unit of measurement

Springboard’s footfall data record the volume of activity entering a retail park or shopping centre, or within a town centre. It is not recording footfall into stores, but into retail destinations.

Business Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Survey

The business indicators are based on responses from the voluntary, fortnightly Business Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Survey (BICS), which captures business' views on impact on turnover, workforce, prices, trade and business resilience. The survey questions for the latest period are available in Business Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Survey questions.

The sample design for BICS was reviewed and refreshed for wave 7, sent out on Monday 15 June. This new sample design will be the basis for future waves and the questionnaire will go to approximately 24,500 businesses from wave 7 onwards. This sample redesign improves the coverage for the smaller sized businesses.

The sample from wave 7 onwards has a breakdown of approximately 7,400 businesses with employment for 250 and over and approximately 17,100 for employment between 0 and 249. This breaks down further for approximately 5,000 for employment between 0 and 99 and 12,100 for employment between 100 and 249.

Estimates from the BICS are currently unweighted and should be treated with caution when used to evaluate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic across the UK economy. Each business was assigned the same weight regardless of turnover, size or industry.

More information on the quality and methodology, including response rates, sample size and weighting, is available in the "Measuring the data" section of the Coronavirus and the economic impacts on the UK bulletin.

Social impact of the coronavirus (OPN)

Data on the social impact of the coronavirus on Great Britain were collected from the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN).

The main questions asked of respondents were:

  • In the past seven days, have you avoided contact with older people or other vulnerable people because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak?
  • In the past seven days, for what reasons have you left your home?
  • In the past seven days, have you worked from home because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak?
  • In the past seven days, have you self-isolated because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak?
  • In the past seven days have you visited a park or public green space?

Full response categories included in the series “Either not left home or only left for work, exercise, essential shopping, medical need" were:

  • travelling to and from work
  • for exercise, for example a run, walk or cycle – alone or with members of your household
  • shopping for basic necessities
  • any medical need, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person

This series is not an estimate of compliance, as guidance on reasons to leave home have changed through the weeks that data have been collected.

More information on the quality and methodology of the OPN is available in the “Measuring the data” section of the Coronavirus and the social impacts on Great Britain bulletin.

Online job advert estimates

These estimates are experimental and will be developed over the coming weeks. More information on the methodology used to compile these estimates is available in Using Adzuna data to derive an indicator of weekly vacancies: Experimental Statistics.

Online price change for high-demand products (HDPs)

Prices were scraped daily from several large online UK retailers (typically supermarkets and other prominent high-street chains with an online presence) for selected items chosen to form the high-demand products (HDP) basket (see Table 1 in the online price changes for HDPs methodology).

An average weekly price was then calculated for each unique product and a movement splice GEKS-Jevons index was calculated using a rolling window of five weeks. More information detailing our plan for data collection, compilation and publication of our various prices statistics following movement restrictions as a result of the coronavirus pandemic is available.

More information on the quality and methodology of the online price changes data is available in the Online price changes of HDPs methodology.

Shipping indicators

These weekly and daily faster shipping indicators data are created through new experimental methods and are not official statistics. More quality and methodology information is available in Faster indicators of UK economic activity: more timely and relevant shipping indicators.

The seasonally adjusted and trend estimates are estimated using a version of the seasonal adjustment method TRAMO-SEATS modified to deal with higher frequency time series. This method is available in an R package “rjdhf” (National Bank of Belgium Research Department) that calls an experimental version of the seasonal adjustment software JDemetra+. The seasonally adjusted and trend estimates are based on decomposing an ARIMA model that results in a set of moving average filters whose weights are determined by the model. The seasonal adjustment method may be limited as the available shipping data are a short time series; it will be fine-tuned in future releases.

Value Added Tax (VAT)

Value Added Tax (VAT) diffusion indices are created through new experimental methods and are not official statistics. More quality and methodology information is available in Faster indicators of UK economic activity: Value Added Tax returns.

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3. Strengths and limitations of faster indicators

This section details the strengths and limitations of the various faster indicators included in the bulletin with links to more detailed methodology pages where required.

Footfall

Year-on-year footfall estimates compare the same day rather than date; for example, Tuesday 30 June 2020 is compared with Tuesday 2 July 2019 (last year was two days ahead of this year because of the leap year).

However, there are no adjustments for bank holidays. For example, as the date of Easter changes each year, the data will be comparing Easter Sunday in 2019 with a Sunday in 2020 that is not Easter.

Business Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Survey

The Business Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Survey (BICS) is voluntary and responses are qualitative, which should be treated with caution as results reflect the characteristics of those who responded and not necessarily the wider business population.

These data should not be used in place of official statistics. The survey was designed to give an indication of the impact of the coronavirus on businesses and a timelier estimate than other surveys.

More information on the strengths and limitations of the BICS data is available in the "Strengths and limitations" section of the Coronavirus and the economic impacts on the UK bulletin.

Social impact of the coronavirus (OPN)

More information on the strengths and limitations of the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN) is available in the "Strengths and limitations" section of the Coronavirus and the social impacts on Great Britain bulletin.

Online job advert estimates

These estimates are experimental and will be developed over the coming weeks. Information on the strengths and limitations of these estimates is available in Using Adzuna data to derive an indicator of weekly vacancies: Experimental Statistics.

Online price change for high-demand products (HDPs)

These experimental online price changes data should not be compared with the headline Consumer Prices Index including owner occupiers' housing costs (CPIH). The CPIH is produced using different methods, data and quality thresholds, and it incorporates a broader range of goods and services, such as housing.

More information on the strengths and limitations of the online price changes data is available in the Online price changes of high-demand products (HDPs) methodology.

Shipping indicators and Value Added Tax (VAT)

It should be noted that these indicators are not intended to be an early measure or predictor of gross domestic product (GDP), and their potential relationship with headline GDP should be interpreted with caution. Instead, they provide an early picture of a range of activities that are likely to have an impact on the economy, supplementing official economic statistics.

Publication of coronavirus-related data

We will publish this bulletin on a weekly basis during the coronavirus pandemic. This is to ensure we are meeting user needs for more timely data. We will be adding new data and experimental indicators as and when data become available each week.

This publication will include regularly updated data from the new fortnightly BICS survey, weekly indicators from the OPN on the social impact of the coronavirus, online job adverts from Adzuna, online prices for HDPs, weekly and daily shipping indicators, and monthly VAT diffusion indices.

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Contact details for this Methodology

Chloe Gibbs
faster.indicators@ons.gov.uk
Telephone: +44 (0)1633 651 988