GDP monthly estimate, UK : March 2022

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.

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Contact:
Email Niamh McAuley

Release date:
12 May 2022

Next release:
13 June 2022

1. Main points

  • Gross domestic product (GDP) fell by 0.1% in March 2022, after no growth in February 2022 (revised down from 0.1% growth).

  • Services fell by 0.2% on the month and was the main contributor to March’s fall in GDP, reflecting a large decrease (15.1%) in the wholesale and retail trade and repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles industry.

  • Production also fell on the month by 0.2%; these falls were partially offset by construction, which grew by 1.7%.

  • Output in consumer-facing services fell by 1.8% in March 2022, following a 0.5% (revised down from 0.7%) growth in February 2022; non-consumer facing services grew by 0.2% on the month following a 0.1% fall in February (revised down from 0.0%).

  • Monthly GDP is now 1.2% above its pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic level (February 2020).

  • Services is now 1.5% above its pre-coronavirus level, while construction is 3.7% above and production is 1.6% below; within services, consumer-facing services were 6.8% below their pre-coronavirus levels in March 2022, while all other services were 3.6% above.

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2. Monthly GDP

Monthly real gross domestic product (GDP) is estimated to have fallen by 0.1% in March 2022 and is now 1.2% above its pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) level in February 2020 (Figure 1).

This release includes revisions to the monthly data back to January 2022, consistent with our GDP first quarterly estimate bulletin published on the same day. For more information, see the Revisions to GDP section.

Services fell by 0.2% on the month and was the main contributor to March’s fall in GDP. Production also fell on the month by 0.2%. These falls were partially offset by construction, which grew by 1.7% (Figure 2).

GDP grew by 0.8% in the three months to March 2022. Services was the main contributor in the three months to March, contributing 0.4 percentage points, while production and construction contributed 0.2 percentage points each. More detail on the quarterly path can be found in our GDP first quarterly estimate, UK: January to March 2022 bulletin.

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3. The services sector

Services fell by 0.2% in March 2022 after no growth in February 2022 (revised down from growth of 0.2%). Services output is now 1.5% above its pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic level in February 2020. In March 2022, 8 of the 14 service sectors were above their pre-coronavirus levels, with the largest contribution from human health and social work activities (growing 10.7% from February 2020).

Wholesale and retail trade fell by 2.8% in March 2022 and was the main negative contributor to March’s fall in services (Figure 4). The driver of this fall was wholesale and retail trade and repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles, which fell by 15.1%; the fourth consecutive month of negative growth in this industry. According to The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), this is the weakest March for new car registrations since 1998, partly reflecting the supply chain squeeze seen in the automotive industry.

The largest positive contributor to services in March 2022 was human health and social work activities (up 1.5%). Human health activities (up 2.1%) was the main driver of this growth, largely reflecting a rise in GP appointments, and accident and emergency care. Also in this sub-sector, there were offsetting downward contributions from NHS Test and Trace and the COVID-19 vaccination programme. A full record of the volume estimates of Test and Trace, and vaccination programmes along with their contribution to GDP growth can be found in our accompanying dataset on health volume adjustments and contribution to GDP growth.

NHS Test and Trace services and vaccine programmes

The NHS Test and Trace and COVID-19 vaccination programme reduced GDP growth by 0.2 percentage points in March 2022. This was driven by further falls in both NHS Test and Trace (down 26%) and the Vaccination programmes (down 22%), as shown in Table 1. It is important to note, though, that this follows particular high levels of activity in December and January reflecting the vaccination booster campaign and high-test activity.

A full record of the volume estimates of Test and Trace, and vaccination programmes, along with their contribution to GDP growth can be found in our accompanying dataset on health volume adjustments and contribution to GDP growth.

Consumer-facing services

Output in consumer-facing services fell by 1.8% in March 2022, following 0.5% growth in February 2022 (revised down from 0.7%). The March decrease was mainly driven by a 15.1% fall in wholesale and retail trade and repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles, following a fall of 2.6% in February. This was partially offset by other personal service activities, the largest positive contributor in consumer-facing services, growing 4.0%.

Consumer-facing services were 6.8% below their pre-coronavirus levels (February 2020) in March 2022, while all other services were 3.6% above.

The main driver to consumer-facing services remaining below pre-coronavirus levels was buying and selling, renting and operating of own or leased real estate (excluding imputed rent), contributing negative 3.1 percentage points, after dropping from all-time high levels in February 2020 (Figure 5).

Overall, services grew by 0.4% in the three months to March 2022 compared with the previous three months (October to December 2021), with positive growth seen in 8 of the 14 services sectors.

More detailed breakdowns on services are available in our Index of Services, UK: March 2022 bulletin.

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4. The production sector

Production output fell by 0.2% in March 2022, driven by falls in manufacturing and electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply. This follows a decline of 0.3% in February 2022 (revised up from a 0.6% fall).

Manufacturing decreased by 0.2% in March 2022, with manufacture of basic pharmaceutical products and pharmaceutical preparations as the largest contributor to negative growth (down 5.4%). Other noteworthy falls of 4.1% in manufacture of textiles, wearing apparel and leather products, and 3.5% in manufacture of chemicals and chemical products saw output fall for the second consecutive month. These falls were offset by growth in the manufacture of transport equipment, which grew by 3.5% following negative growth in both January and February 2022 caused by stock shortages.

Electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply fell by 2.0% in March 2022, with manufacture of gas; distribution of gaseous fuels through mains; steam and aircon supply decreasing by 4.3%, reflecting a milder than usual March (sixth-mildest March in terms of maximum temperature since records began in 1884, according to Met Office data. Mining and quarrying grew by 2.8%, driven by growths of 1.9% in extraction of crude petroleum and natural gas, and 5.8% in other mining and quarrying.

Water supply and sewerage was broadly flat on the month with a 5.0% growth in waste collection, treatment and disposal activities mostly offset by sewerage, which fell by 3.9%.

Overall, production increased by 1.2% in the three months to March 2022, with growths of 1.3% in manufacturing, 1.9% in electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply, and 0.4% in water supply and sewerage. This was partially offset by a decrease of 0.2% in mining and quarrying.

More detailed breakdowns on production are available in our Index of Production, UK: March 2022 bulletin.

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5. The construction sector

Construction output increased by 1.7% in March 2022. This follows an upwardly revised 2.1% and 0.2% monthly growth in January 2022 and February 2022 respectively.

Construction output was 3.7% above its pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic level (February 2020) in March 2022 (Figure 7). The volume level of monthly construction output in March 2022 is at its highest since monthly records began in January 2010.

The increase in monthly construction output in March 2022 was driven by rises in both repair and maintenance (3.0%) and new work (1.0%).

At the sector level, six of the nine sectors saw an increase on the month in March 2022, with private housing repair and maintenance (5.8%) and private commercial new work (4.0%) the main contributors to the increase.

Anecdotal evidence received from the Monthly Business Survey for Construction and Allied Trades suggested the increase in private housing repair and maintenance reflects repair work from the storms that occurred in the latter half of February 2022. For private commercial new work, office work contributed notably to the rise, as refurbishment activity to make spaces COVID-compliant continued at pace. This is further supported in today’s new orders in the construction industry Quarter 1 (Jan to Mar) 2022 data, with office work recording new orders over £2 billion for the third consecutive quarter in the last year.

Some businesses, mainly smaller firms, also responded that sourcing construction products continued to be a challenge. Prices in the industry also continued to rise considerably as shown by the all construction work annual growth in the Construction Output Price Indices being its strongest on record at 7.3% in March 2022. Despite these challenges demand continued to be strong in the industry.

Construction output rose 3.8% in Quarter 1 (Jan to Mar) 2022 compared with Quarter 4 (Oct to Dec) 2021. Outside of the pandemic period this is the strongest quarterly growth since Quarter 1 2017 (3.9%).

Further detail on construction growth rates can be found in our Construction output in Great Britain: March 2022, new orders and Construction Output Price Indices, January to March 2022 bulletin.

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6. Revisions to monthly gross domestic product (GDP)

This release gives data for March 2022 for the first time and incorporates revisions to the monthly data in January and February 2022, in line with our GDP first quarterly estimate bulletin release on 12 May 2022. Table 2 shows the revisions to monthly GDP and its sectors for January and February 2022.

Notes:
  1. Revisions are rounded to one decimal place.
  2. Further information on current and past revisions can be found in our Revision Triangles dataset.
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7. Monthly GDP data

Monthly gross domestic product by gross value added
Dataset | Released 12 May 2022
The gross value added (GVA) tables showing the monthly and annual growths and indices as published within the monthly gross domestic product (GDP) statistical bulletin.

Contributions to monthly GDP
Dataset | Released 12 May 2022
Contributions to growth within monthly gross domestic product (GDP), UK.

Monthly gross domestic product: time series
Dataset MGDP | Released 12 May 2022
Monthly estimate of gross domestic product (GDP) containing constant price gross value added (GVA) data for the UK.

Monthly GDP and main sectors to four decimal places
Dataset | Released 12 May 2022
Monthly index values for monthly gross domestic product (GDP) and the main sectors in the UK to four decimal places.

Revisions triangles for monthly GDP
Dataset | Released 12 May 2022
Comparison of gross domestic product (GDP) first estimates against estimates published later.

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8. Glossary

Contribution to growth

Contribution to growth indicates how many percentage points a sector or industry is adding or removing from a given growth rate, usually headline gross domestic product (GDP) growth.

Gross domestic product (GDP)

A measure of the economic activity produced by a country or region. GDP growth is the main indicator of economic performance. There are three approaches used to measure GDP:

  • the output approach

  • the expenditure approach

  • the income approach

Index numbers

Data relative to a given base value, which typically refers to a year.

Rolling three-month growth

Rolling three-month growth takes the average level of three consecutive months (for example, April, May and June), and compares it with the average level of the previous three months (for example, January, February and March). The rolling three-month growth rate is often used alongside the monthly growth rate, as the latter can be more volatile.

For further definitions, please see our Glossary of economic terms.

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9. Measuring the data

Early in the pandemic, we faced some challenges in receiving timely responses to the Monthly Business Survey (MBS) as businesses adapted to new conditions. Further information on measuring the data across our main data sources is available in our following releases:

There have been large movements in UK gross domestic product (GDP) over the course of the coronavirus pandemic. This is primarily in response to public health restrictions and voluntary social distancing that have been in place over this period. Given the size of these effects, there has been a focus on where the economy is relative to its pre-coronavirus pandemic levels.

In the UK, we produce estimates of monthly and quarterly GDP. However, there are reasons as to why these would not provide the same estimate as to where the economy is relative to its pre-pandemic levels. This primarily reflects that monthly estimates of GDP are based on only the output measure of GDP, while quarterly estimates of GDP reflect the average of the three approaches (output, income and expenditure).

However, the coronavirus pandemic has brought many measurement challenges that have created more uncertainty around our three approaches. This has led to an initial divergence between the output and average estimate, which is then reflected in how we compare monthly and quarterly estimates of GDP. Further information is available in our article Measuring monthly and quarterly UK gross domestic product during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Estimates for the construction industry within monthly GDP will differ to those published in the construction output release as they account for both the outputs produced and inputs consumed by the industry. There are also some coverage differences given the use of the Annual Business Survey in their compilation.

Within the monthly GDP publication, government data are sourced on a quarterly basis; a monthly forecast is used to estimate data for the monthly round until quarterly data are available. While this is a standard practice with many of our data sources, pre-empting the behaviour of a series during a pandemic, in particular for health and education, comes with more uncertainty than usual so caution is advised when looking at the monthly estimates beyond the latest published quarter.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is aware of reclassifications or relocations of companies that may impact these published estimates of GDP and associated breakdowns. The ONS is monitoring the data and will seek to implement any resulting changes into the national accounts as soon as possible.

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10. Strengths and limitations

Quality and methodology information on strengths, limitations, appropriate uses, and how the data were created is available in our Gross domestic product (GDP) QMI.

Monthly growth rates can be volatile. This indicator should therefore be used with caution and alongside other measures, such as the three-month growth rate, when looking for an indicator of the medium-term trend of the economy. However, it is useful in highlighting one-off changes that can be masked by three-month growth rates.

The latest comparisons of month on same month a year ago should be treated with caution given the impact of base effects on growth rates because of the economic impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic throughout 2020 and 2021. Such comparisons and growth rates can be found in our accompanying dataset on monthly gross domestic product by gross value added.

Consultation on ONS release times

The Office for Statistics Regulation has finalised its consultation on release practices. The ONS has welcomed the findings, specifically noting that the release-time exemptions, which were granted during the pandemic, are now incorporated into the revised Code of Practice. As such, the monthly GDP release will continue to be published at 7am.

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Contact details for this Statistical bulletin

Niamh McAuley
gdp@ons.gov.uk
Telephone: +44 1633 455284