The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has today (18 June 2019) announced plans to publish the first quarterly estimates of gross domestic product (GDP) for each of the regions of England and for Wales.

The new quarterly estimates, which will be available from early September, will be calculated almost exclusively from almost two million Value Added Tax (VAT) returns. This will allow them to be produced twice as quickly as current estimates.

The figures will be available for Wales and each English region and will be published alongside the pre-existing estimates for Scotland and Northern Ireland. They will be broken down by the same 18 industries as is currently available for the ONS’s monthly GDP publication and will be consistent with UK GDP estimates.

Commenting on the new figures, ONS Head of GDP Rob Kent-Smith said:

“These new estimates will bring a step-change in our regional statistics and faster access to detailed information about how our regional economies are faring.

“It’s another example of how the ONS is embracing digital data sources to produce timely and more actionable insights for policy-makers, businesses and analysts.”

Until now the current regional growth figures were available only annually and published a year after the end of the period. The new quarterly estimates will be published six months after the end of each quarter.

For outgoing National Statistician John Pullinger, they represent another important milestone in the transformation of the UK’s economic indicators and the continuing delivery of an ambitious strategy begun in 2015:

“In the last four years we’ve come a long way from the traditional sample survey-based approach to gathering national statistics. We are already delivering new insights into the economy, about how lives differ across different parts of the country, and about our relationships with other nations. Good statistics and clear insight are a vital public good for the information age and are central to the functioning of our democratic society.”

As well as using VAT returns to calculate national and regional growth figures, ONS recently announced plans to introduce web-scraped and shop scanner data into the official inflation statistics. UK migration estimates are now informed by passenger data from the Home Office and information from higher education.

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