The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has today published details of a raft of measures that will help it spot future economic downturns quicker. As part of the wholesale transformation of economic statistics, ONS is working on identifying future turning points as soon as they happen, ensuring policymakers have all the information they need to react in time.

The improvements, announced in an article in the April edition of ONS’s Economic review, include:

  • using VAT data returns as a quality assurance tool to validate movements seen in business survey responses and to help fine-tune forecasts
  • working with the Bank of England to provide more accurate early forecasts of the performance of the finance sector
  • improved bias adjustments and increased use of external data sources to improve the accuracy of initial estimates
  • increased use of “current price” data to help reveal the underlining performance of the economy

Many of the improvements highlighted today are already being used to estimate changes in gross domestic product (GDP), with further improvements being brought in throughout 2017.

Commenting on the improvements, Head of National Accounts Darren Morgan said:

“It is vital that ONS is able to pick up turning points as soon as they happen, enabling policy makers to respond quickly.

“The improvements announced today improve the quality of GDP estimates and help to reduce the size of future revisions.”

The full Economic review, including more details of improvements to GDP estimates, will be published on 6 April and will be discussed at that day’s ONS Economic Forum being held at the Royal Statistical Society in London. The Economic review also contains more information on the productivity of family-run firms and plans to use VAT returns to compile UK GDP.

Background notes

  1. The full Economic review will be available here from 9:30am, Thursday 6 April.

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