1. Products for the new GDP publication model


The monthly estimates of gross domestic product (GDP) will be presented in a new style bulletin. It will use charts and brief commentary to share the main messages of the GDP release.

The bulletin is designed to give an overview of the latest data on the economy. For more granular information, users will be directed to the Index of Services (IoS), Index of Production (IoP) and construction bulletins, which will be released on the same day.

For one month of each quarter the monthly GDP release is published on the same day as the first quarterly estimate of GDP. On this day, the monthly bulletin will be expanded to include extra information from the quarterly release, such as information on the income and expenditure approaches to measuring GDP. Further details on the quarterly release will be published in a separate bulletin.

Standard charts

Chart 1 – Headline GDP growth

The first chart in the bulletin will be a bar chart, reporting the latest three-month growth figure.

The chart will present two years of quarterly data, up to the latest quarter available. The chart will also show the latest rolling three-month figures that are available after the latest full quarter. When the next full quarter is released, the rolling three-month bars will be removed and the bar chart will consist of only quarterly data.

The three-month rolling estimates will be based on output gross value added (GVA) data. This is used as a proxy for GDP when information from the income and expenditure approaches to measuring GDP is not available. Output GVA is also used for the most recent quarter because it has the highest data content across the three measures. Because these types of data are different, they are not directly comparable. Also, the data in the rolling three-month data will, by its nature, overlap with the previous quarterly release by one or two months.

To help distinguish between the data types, the bars representing rolling three-month data will be a different colour from those representing quarterly data. There will also be shading separating the two types of data on the chart, and clear labelling.

Chart 2 – Contributions to GDP

The second chart will be a bar chart depicting the contributions of the components of GDP to the headline GDP figure. These components are the services industries, production industries, construction and agriculture.

Chart 3 – Rolling three-month growth

The third chart will be a line chart of rolling three-month growth over the past two years. Using GVA as a proxy for GDP, this chart will differ slightly from the growth seen in the first chart. There will be discrepancies between the quarterly data, which includes information from the income and expenditure approaches to measuring GDP, and rolling three-month output data.

Whilst we would not draw any firm conclusions based on this data in isolation, this chart will visualise trends that might not be seen in the quarterly data. The quarterly data did not show the negative rolling three-month growth seen in April 2017, for example.

Table 1 – Monthly figures

The only table in the bulletin will state the monthly growth rates for the three months the bulletin covers. It will include services, production, construction, and agriculture growth rates, as well as overall GDP growth rates by month.

As above, these monthly growth rates will be based on output GVA data and therefore are a proxy for GDP.

In the release that includes quarterly information, this table will be expanded to include quarterly growth rates for GDP and its components.

Variable charts

Telling the story

The remainder of the bulletin will consist of charts that vary monthly and will be chosen based on which tells the story of the data most appropriately. There will always be at least one chart each on aspects of the services and production industries.

Any other charts in the bulletin will be adapted to suit the information in the release. In this example, a chart has been added to examine the effects of the snowfall in February and March on selected industry sectors.

Income and expenditure charts

In the monthly release that aligns with the first quarterly estimate of GDP, the bulletin will be expanded to reflect the additional information on other measures of GDP. There will be one chart each for the income and expenditure approaches to measuring GDP, which will consist of growths and contributions of the main components to growth over the past two years.

Data tables

The data tables published alongside the monthly GDP release will follow the same format as the B1 table published with the previous preliminary estimate of GDP. They will contain only output GVA data. The tables will also have an expanded services breakdown, although as mentioned earlier, lower-level details will be available in the Index of Services, Index of Production and construction publications. To view the templates of these tables, download this article as a PDF. CDID codes can be found within this PDF.

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2. About this article

Section 3 of this article illustrates what the new style bulletin for monthly GDP will look like on a month when it aligns with the first quarterly estimate of GDP.

The data included in this bulletin are not real data and are only included to illustrate the format of the new bulletin.

Figure 1 would not usually contain any three-month-on-three-month data in a month where the monthly GDP release and the first quarterly GDP release align. Instead, it would just show the completed calendar quarter as an additional bar. This information has been included to demonstrate how the three-month-on-three-month data will be displayed in a non-aligned release.

While quarterly data have been used in Figures 4 and 5, in future monthly releases these types of charts would be based on three-month-on-three-month data.

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3. Example GDP monthly estimate, UK: March 2018

Using March 2018 data, the following sections show the format the monthly bulletin will follow.

Gross domestic product (GDP) measures the value of goods and services produced in the UK. It estimates the size of and growth in the economy.

UK GDP grew by 0.1% in the three months to March

GDP increased by 0.1% in January to March 2018, compared with October to December 2017.

This is the lowest three-month growth since Quarter 4 (Oct to Dec) 2012.

“Snow had some impact on GDP in the three months up to March, particularly in construction and some areas of retail, but bad weather had limited effect overall and gave some boost to energy supply and sales.”

Rob Kent-Smith, Head of National Accounts

Construction pulls overall GDP down

The 3.3% fall in construction in the three months up to March meant it had a large negative contribution to GDP growth.

The services industries are the largest contributor to GDP growth. Business services and finance experienced broad-based growth, making it the main driver of the services industries.

Rolling three-month growth slowed

Rolling three-month gross domestic product (GDP) growth grew by 0.1%. The longer-term trend throughout 2017 is one of subdued growth, largely driven by a fall in consumer-facing industries, such as retail and accommodation.

Rolling three-month growth is based on output gross value added (GVA) and therefore there will be discrepancies with our quarterly estimates of GDP. This is because quarterly estimates include information on the expenditure and income approaches to measuring GDP.

GDP was flat in March

There was slow growth in January, followed by negative growth in February, and flat growth in March.

The monthly growth rate for GDP is volatile and therefore it should be used with caution and used alongside other measures such as the three-month growth rate when looking for an indicator of the long-term trend of the economy.

Services industries grew by 0.3% in January to March compared with October to December

The longer-term trend continued to show a weakening in services growth, particularly in consumer-facing industries (e.g. retail, hotels, restaurants).

Production increased by 0.7% led by mining and quarrying and a cold weather boost to energy production

Figure 5: Energy use and mining and quarrying growth drove strong production growth

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Manufacturing growth was 0.2%. This is lower growth than measured in recent periods, but the decrease was not due to the impact of snow. The fall in growth was spread across several manufacturing industries.

Reduced manufacturing growth was partially offset by an increase in energy production (2.3%) due to the below-average temperatures. Mining and quarrying grew by 3.5%, largely due to a bounce-back from a fall in the previous period.

Snow in late February and early March affected construction and retail

Construction experienced negative growth in all three months, meaning the decline was not solely due to adverse weather.

Retail trade experienced negative growth in March, though there was an increase in online sales during this time. The fall in retail was largely driven by the fall in petrol sales due to the bad weather.

Growth in manufacturing slowed in the past three months, but this is unrelated to the snowfall in February and March.

Household spending increased by 0.2% in Quarter 1 (Jan to Mar) 2018, continuing a slowdown of growth. When comparing Quarter 1 2018 with the same quarter a year ago, household spending grew by 1.1%. The quarter on same quarter a year ago growths show a pattern of weakening through 2017 and the first quarter of 2018, consistent with the weakness seen in consumer-facing industries in the output approach to measuring GDP.

Gross fixed capital formation grew by 0.9% in Quarter 1, within which business investment decreased by 0.2%. In Quarter 1 the net trade deficit narrowed to £9,228 million in volume terms, from £9,375 million in Quarter 4 (Oct to Dec) 2017.

GDP as measured by the income approach is based on current prices. In other words, it does not take into account inflation since suitable price information is not available for this measure. All data in this section are in current prices seasonally adjusted.

Compensation of employees increased by 1.6% in Quarter 1, while taxes on products and production less subsidies decreased by 2.4%. Other income increased by 0.5% and gross operating surplus of corporations decreased by 1.3% in Quarter 4.

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Contact details for this Article

Molly O'Donnell
Telephone: +44 (0)1633 456225