GDP monthly estimate, UK : November 2021

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 Ellis Best

Release date:
14 January 2022

Next release:
11 February 2022

1. Main points

  • Gross domestic product (GDP) is estimated to have grown by 0.9% in November 2021 and is above its pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic level (February 2020) for the first time, by 0.7%.

  • Services (0.7%), production (1.0%) and construction (3.5%) output all increased between October and November 2021; this means that services and construction output are both 1.3% above their pre-coronavirus levels while production remains 2.6% below.

  • In the latest month, output in consumer-facing services grew by 0.8%, mainly because of a 1.4% increase in retail trade, while all other services rose by 0.6%; consumer-facing services are still 5.0% below their pre-coronavirus levels, while all other services are 2.9% above.

  • If there are no other data revisions, quarterly GDP for Quarter 4 (Oct to Dec) 2021 will either reach or surpass its pre-coronavirus level (Quarter 4 2019), provided our monthly December 2021 estimate does not fall by more than 0.2%.

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2. Monthly GDP

Monthly real gross domestic product (GDP) is estimated to have grown by 0.9% in November 2021, compared with a 0.2% increase in October 2021 (revised from 0.1%). This release includes revisions to the monthly data back to January 2020, consistent with the Quarterly National Accounts published on 22 December 2021.

There was an increase in output in all sectors in November 2021, with services output the main driver of GDP growth, contributing 0.5 percentage points (Figure 2).

In November 2021, GDP is estimated to be above its pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic level (February 2020) for the first time, by 0.7%. Services and construction are both 1.3% above their pre-coronavirus levels but production remains 2.6% below. If there are no other data revisions, quarterly GDP for Quarter 4 (Oct to Dec) 2021 will either reach or surpass its pre-coronavirus level (Quarter 4 2019) provided our monthly December 2021 estimate does not fall by more than 0.2%.

At the sub-sector level, the largest contributors to monthly GDP recovering above pre-coronavirus levels in November 2021 were human health and social work activities, wholesale and retail trade, and arts, entertainment and recreation (Figure 3).

In the next monthly GDP release we will use the latest available and updated data back to January 2021 in-line with the National Accounts Revision Policy. This may mean that the contribution of some sectors will be revised. Specifically, it should be noted that while the growth in arts, entertainment and recreation is our best estimate, it is likely that the level of the index for this industry will be revised down from April 2021 onwards. This will be part of the regular annual update in the next monthly gross domestic product (GDP) release. While this will not, in itself, change the amount by which GDP is above its pre-coronavirus levels, it may mean that arts, entertainment and recreation is not one of the main contributors to the recovery.

Overall, GDP grew by 1.1% in the three months to November 2021, reflecting the strong performance of the services sector. Administrative and support service activities, human health and social work activities and transport and storage were the three largest contributors to the services sector growth.

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3. The services sector

Services output grew by 0.7% in November 2021 and is now 1.3% above its pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic level (February 2020). At the services sub-sector level, 8 of the 14 have surpassed their pre-coronavirus levels, with the largest contributions from human health and social work activities, wholesale and retail trade, and arts, entertainment and recreation.

Professional, scientific, and technical activities grew by 2.5% in November 2021 and was the main contributor to November’s growth in services (Figure 4). The main driver of the growth in this sector was architectural and engineering activities; technical testing and analysis, which grew by 6.2%, with anecdotal evidence of work brought forward from year end.

Transport and storage grew by 3.8% and was the second largest contributor to November’s growth in services. The main drivers of this growth were postal and courier activities (growing by 8.0%) and warehousing and support activities for transportation (growing by 3.3%). This strength was driven by increased retail activity during this period, because of stronger than usual Black Friday sales and the build-up to Christmas. There was also growth of 14.6% in air transport, which was the sixth consecutive month of positive growth, but it remains 23.2% below its pre-coronavirus level.

Downward contributions to services growth in November 2021 included a 0.1% fall in real estate activities and a 0.3% fall in public administration and defence.

Consumer facing services

Output in consumer-facing services grew by 0.8% in November 2021, mainly driven by a 1.4% increase in retail trade. More detailed breakdowns on retail trade are available in Retail sales, Great Britain: November 2021.

Consumer-facing services are 5.0% below their pre-coronavirus levels (February 2020) in November 2021, while all other services are 2.9% above them.

Overall, services grew by 1.3% in the three months to November 2021 compared with the previous three months (June to August 2021), with positive growth seen in 9 of the 14 services sub-sectors.

More detailed breakdowns on services are available in the Index of Services, UK: November 2021

NHS Test and Trace services and vaccine programmes

The NHS Test and Trace and COVID-19 vaccination programme had a positive 0.2 percentage point impact on gross domestic product (GDP) growth in November 2021, with NHS Test and Trace and vaccination programmes both increasing (by 2% and 40% respectively). In England, COVID-19 vaccinations increased from 7.6 million in October 2021 to 10.3 million in November 2021, driven by booster vaccinations.

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

While the NHS Test and Trace and vaccination programme contributed positively to human health activities in November 2021, there were offsetting downward contributions from other areas of human health, including GP appointments and A&E attendance. 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 comes with more uncertainty than usual, particularly for health and education. Therefore, caution is advised when looking at the monthly estimates beyond the latest published quarter.

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4. The production sector

Production output increased by 1.0% in November 2021, with a mixed performance across the four sectors (Figure 6). This follows two consecutive months of negative growth, with a fall of 0.5% in October 2021 (revised from a 0.6% fall), and a fall of 0.7% in September 2021 (revised from a 0.4% fall).

Production is 2.6% below its pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic level (February 2020), predominately driven by manufacturing, which is 2.2% below its pre-coronavirus level. Water supply and sewerage is the only production sub-sector above the pre-coronavirus level (7.6%).

Manufacturing was the largest contributor to production growth in November 2021, increasing by 1.1%, with positive growth in 9 out of the 13 manufacturing sub-sectors. The main drivers of this growth were the manufacture of machinery and equipment not elsewhere classified (7.4%) and the manufacture of transport equipment (3.6%). After two months of contraction, output in the manufacture of motor vehicles increased by 7.8% with anecdotal evidence around improvements to the sourcing of parts, although other businesses in this industry noted a continued supply shortage.

Electricity, gas, steam, and air conditioning supply increased by 1.3% in November 2021. The distribution of gas grew by 5.1% following five consecutive months of negative growth. Water supply and sewerage also increased in November 2021, by 1.6%. Mining and quarrying was the only sector to fall in November 2021, with a contraction of 1.3% driven by a 2.3% fall in extraction of crude petroleum and natural gas.

Overall, production fell by 0.1% in the three months to November 2021, with falls of 6.6% in electricity, gas, steam, and air conditioning supply and 0.1% in manufacturing. These falls were partially offset by an increase of 10.7% in mining and quarrying and 1.0% in water supply and sewerage.

More detailed breakdowns on production are available in the Index of Production, UK: November 2021.

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5. The construction sector

Construction output increased 3.5% in November 2021 following a fall of 1.7% in October 2021 (revised from a 1.8% fall). This is the largest monthly rise seen in construction output growth since March 2021 (4.5%). Construction output is now 1.3% above its pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic level (Figure 7).

The increase in monthly construction output in November 2021 was driven solely by an increase in new work (5.7%), while repair and maintenance saw a slight decline, decreasing 0.2%.

At the sector level, the main contributors were infrastructure and private new housing, which increased by 11.4% and 5.5% respectively. These monthly increases are partly explained in the context of the large relative monthly falls in October 2021 (3.6% and 7.4% declines respectively). However, anecdotal evidence received from both the returns to the Monthly Business Survey for Construction and Allied Trades and the Business Insights and Conditions Survey (BICS) suggested some of the issues in sourcing construction products over recent months had eased. Also, the unseasonal mild and dry weather throughout the majority of November ensured businesses could continue operating on sites during the month.

Construction output rose by 1.6% in the three months to November 2021. Similar increases in both new work and repair and maintenance (1.5% and 1.6% respectively) contributed to the growth. At the type of work level, 7 of the 9 sectors saw an increase, with infrastructure the main contributor, increasing by 3.6% in the three months to November 2021.

Further detail on the contributions to construction growth can be found in Construction output in Great Britain: November 2021

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6. Cross-industry themes

There were some common themes that were anecdotally reported to have played a part in performance across different industries, however, it is often difficult to quantify these effects.

Supply chain of motor-vehicles

Previously, in Coronavirus and the impact on output in the UK economy, we reported that some businesses involved in the car industry were reporting supply issues.

During October 2021, car manufacturers reported supply issues as a result of the ongoing semi-conductor shortage, which led to a decrease in production within the industry. In November 2021 there was some anecdotal evidence around improvements to the sourcing of parts, although other businesses in this industry noted a continued supply shortage.

This has affected other industries such as the leasing of cars and the wholesale and retail of both new and used cars, which has seen a continued increase in prices of used cars. For more information, you can view our Consumer price inflation time series.

Black Friday

Surveyed businesses across many different industries reported a stronger than usual impact of Black Friday sales on their revenue. Industries cited were warehousing and support activities for transportation, postal and courier services and advertising and market research. Retail Sales, Great Britain: November 2021 references Black Friday sales and shows that 26.9% of total retail sales were made online during November 2021.

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7. Revisions to monthly gross domestic product (GDP)

This release gives data for November 2021 for the first time and incorporates revisions to monthly data from January 2020 to September 2021, as published in the Quarterly National Accounts release on 22 December 2021. October 2021 is also open to revision, taking on updated survey data. Table 2 shows the revisions to monthly GDP and its sectors for 2021, since the last monthly publication on 10 December 2021.

The next monthly GDP release on 11 February 2022 will see revisions to the periods January 2021 to November 2021 in line with the National Accounts Revision Policy. These revisions will be consistent with the first quarterly estimate of GDP release published on the same day, which will cover the period from Quarter 1 (Jan to Mar) 2021 to Quarter 4 (Oct to Dec) 2021.

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8. Monthly GDP data

Monthly gross domestic product by gross value added
Dataset | Released 14 January 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 14 January 2022
Contributions to growth within monthly gross domestic product (GDP), UK.

Monthly gross domestic product: time series
Dataset | Released 14 January 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 14 January 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 14 January 2022
Comparison of gross domestic product (GDP) first estimates against estimates published later.

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9. 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 the Glossary of economic terms.

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10. Measuring the data

This release captures the direct effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the government measures taken to reduce transmission of the virus.

Early in the coronavirus pandemic, we faced some challenges in receiving timely responses to the Monthly Business Survey (MBS) as businesses adapted to new conditions. In recent months, response rates have improved and further information on measuring the data across our main data sources is available in the 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-coronavirus 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 Measuring monthly and quarterly UK gross domestic product during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The UK National Accounts, The Blue Book: 2021 was published on 29 October 2021 introducing various improvements to how we produce volume estimates of GDP, and these changes were enacted for the first time in the GDP monthly release published on 13 October 2021.

Note that estimates for the construction industry from this new approach (double deflation) 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 comes with more uncertainty than usual, particularly for health and education. Therefore caution is advised when looking at the monthly estimates beyond the latest published quarter.

Update to the System of National Accounts

As part of an update to the System of National Accounts, the United Nations (UN) are in the process of consulting on several areas being considered for improvement. Previous and live consultations can be found on the UN Statistics Division website. If you would like to discuss any of these consultations with the Office for National Statistics (ONS), please contact us at sna.consultations@ons.gov.uk. Bodies outside the UK National Statistical System are also free to respond to the consultations themselves.

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11. Strengths and limitations

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

The monthly growth rate for GDP is volatile. It 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. Such comparisons and growth rates can nonetheless be found in our accompanying dataset.

Communicating gross domestic product

Recent analysis explains our latest position on how we are looking to communicate GDP, including how we will continue to acknowledge that “technical” recessions comprised at least two consecutive quarters of contracting GDP.

While it is still true that these early estimates are prone to revision, we prefer to focus on the magnitude of the contraction that has taken place following the coronavirus pandemic. It is clear that the contraction in GDP in Quarter 2 (Apr to June) 2020 was the largest recession on record. Our latest estimates show that the UK economy is now 0.7% larger than it was in February 2020.

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Contact details for this Statistical bulletin

Ellis Best
gdp@ons.gov.uk
Telephone: +44 1633 455284