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5 November 2020

Results from Wave 16 of our Business Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Survey (BICS) for the period 5 to 18 October 2020 show that of businesses that had not permanently ceased trading, 42% said they had less than six months’ cash reserves and 3% said they had none. 34% said they had more than six months’ cash reserves and 21% were not sure.

In September 2020, retail sales volumes increased by 1.5% when compared with August; this is the fifth consecutive month of growth, resulting in an increase of 5.5% when compared with February's level before the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic was seen. Looking at the four main retail sectors, food stores and non-store retailing remained at higher levels than in February. Non-food stores also recovered in September, while fuel was the only sector to remain at lower levels than in February 2020.

Our latest labour market data, for June to August 2020, show the employment rate has been decreasing since the start of the first UK-wide lockdown (March 2020), while the unemployment rate and the level of redundancies have been increasing in recent periods. Total hours worked, while still low, show signs of recovering, and there are fewer people temporarily away from work. Vacancies also show signs of a recovery, with a record quarterly increase in the recent period. Early indicators for August 2020 suggest that the number of employees in the UK on payrolls was down around 673,000 compared with March 2020.

Monthly gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 2.1% in August 2020 as lockdown measures continued to ease. While it has continued steadily on the path towards recovery, the UK economy grew less than in recent months. There was strong growth in restaurants and accommodation following the easing of lockdown rules, the “Eat Out to Help Out” scheme, and people choosing summer “staycations”. However, many other parts of the service sector recorded muted growth. Construction also continued its recovery, with a significant boost from housebuilding. There was limited growth in manufacturing, which remains down on its February 2020 level, with car and aircraft production still much lower than at the start of 2020.

Provisional estimates indicate the impact of the pandemic on public sector finances. The £208.5 billion borrowed in the first six months of this financial year (April to September 2020) is more than three times the £54.5 billion borrowed in the whole of the financial year 2019 to 2020, and the highest borrowing in any April to September period since records began in 1993.

View summaries of deaths and health, social impacts or go to our main roundup page for the latest across all topics.

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This page was last updated at 09:30 on 5 November 2020.

5 November 2020

Fewer adults are travelling to work

The proportion of adults in Great Britain who travelled to work between 28 October and 1 November 2020 fell by 3 percentage points from the previous week to 56%.

This was the lowest since the middle of August. The proportion of adults that worked from home and those that neither worked from home nor travelled to work remained at a similar level to the previous week.

Meanwhile, Wales had the biggest weekly decrease in footfall of any region, down 29 percentage points to just over a quarter of the level seen during the same period in 2019. This decrease coincided with the national lockdown for Wales, introduced on Friday 23 October. These measures meant that certain businesses and venues, including bars, restaurants and non-essential shops had to close.

Seven regions had increases in the volume of overall footfall, in which high streets, shopping centres and retail parks are included. The West Midlands, South West, South East, Scotland, North and Yorkshire, Greater London and the East of England all saw footfall rise, with the East of England seeing the largest increase of 8 percentage points.

Read our Coronavirus and the latest indicators for the UK economy and society bulletin for more information.

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3 November 2020

Hospitality workers see largest fall in pay

Measures of employee earnings, using data from the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE), have been published today, relating to the pay period that includes 22 April 2020, at which time approximately 8.8 million employees were furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).

Median weekly pay for full-time employees was £586 in April 2020, up by 0.1% on a year earlier; pay fell in the private sector (negative 0.6%) but not in the public sector (positive 2.4%). The fall in the private sector reflects the different job types across each sector and the extent they have been impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

While pay held up for most employees, there are groups of employees who fared less well, most notably younger employees, the lowest-paid part-time employees, and those working in accommodation and food services. Employees aged 16 to 17 and 18 to 21 years were more impacted than other employees in terms of hours paid for, which fell by 5.4% and 3.7% respectively compared with 2019.

The effect that the CJRS had in April is clear. Employees being placed on the scheme prevented paid hours falling at the rate shown by the actual number of hours worked, as reported in the Labour Force Survey (LFS). A subsequent downward pressure on weekly earnings from a fall in hours was largely suppressed.

Across all industry sectors, paid hours fell by 1.5% from 2019 and median weekly pay was unchanged. However, in accommodation and food services, paid hours fell by 12% and weekly pay fell by 18.1% compared with 2019.

Younger workers and those working in accommodation and food services were more likely to be furloughed and were also less likely to have their pay topped up by their employer when compared with other furloughed employees.

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2 November 2020

1 in 10 city region workers are in elementary occupations most affected by COVID-19 restrictions

Millions of workers have been away from their jobs because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, with many businesses having temporarily closed or reduced operating hours in line with measures to contain the virus.

As a result, the number of people temporarily away from paid work in April to June 2020 increased by 5.1 million compared with the same period last year. Around one-third of people in elementary occupations (33.7%) were away from their job in April to June, the highest proportion of any occupation type. Many of these would have been furloughed, although our Labour Force Survey could not directly capture those furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (those statistics are published by HM Revenue and Customs).

We explored the characteristics of people employed in various occupations across UK city regions using the 2019 Annual Population Survey, to help understand the possible impacts of the coronavirus on local workforces.

Elementary administration and service workers – including postal workers, cleaners, security personnel, shelf fillers, hospital porters, waiting and bar staff – made up 10% of employed people across all city regions (the most of any job type). The city regions with the most workers in this occupation group in 2019 were the Greater London Authority (346,000 people), West Midlands Combined Authority (140,000 people) and Greater Manchester Combined Authority (132,000 people).

Some of the people in these occupations (hospital porters, postal workers, shelf fillers and cleaners) have been able to carry on providing essential services throughout the pandemic. However, a significant proportion of those in “other elementary service occupations” (including kitchen and catering assistants, waiters and waitresses, and bar staff) have been affected by national and local closures of hospitality services, as well as early closing times. In 2019, 1.1 million UK employees belonged to this sub-group.

The elementary administration and service occupation group had the largest young workforce across the UK in 2019, with those aged 16 to 34 years most likely to be away from work (furloughed or otherwise) in April to June 2020. More than half of workers in West of England Combined Authority, Swansea Bay City Region and West Yorkshire were aged 16 to 34 years.

Detailed tables and geographic definitions of UK city regions are available in a user requested dataset. These include occupation breakdowns by sex, industry and ethnicity. We have also published more detailed city-level information about self-employment.

For further information on occupation groups, see the Standard Occupation Classification (SOC) Hierarchy.

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23 October 2020

Retail sales see fifth consecutive month of growth

Retail sales volumes increased by 1.5% in September 2020, compared with August; this is the fifth consecutive month of growth, resulting in an increase of 5.5% when compared with February’s pre-pandemic level. While non-food store sales have seen an increase, fuel and clothing sales are still below their February level, as fewer people travel to work.

In September, fuel was the only main retail sector with sales volumes still below February levels, as many continued to work from home. While non-food store sales as a whole recovered to above February’s levels, clothing sales volumes were also still 12.7% below February. In contrast, household goods stores sales volumes have increased to 11% above February’s levels.

In September, volume sales within non-store retailing were 36.6% higher than in February, as consumers continued to carry out much of their shopping online.

Food and non-store retailing were at higher levels in February, while fuel remained lower than February 2020

Volume sales, seasonally adjusted, Great Britain, September 2017 to September 2020

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In the three months to September, retail sales volumes increased by 17.4% when compared with the previous three months; this is the biggest quarterly increase on record as sales picked up from record-low levels experienced earlier in the year.

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22 October 2020

Average house prices continued to rise in July 2020

The UK’s average house prices increased by 2.5%, to £239,000, over the year to August 2020, up from 2.1% in July 2020; this is £6,000 higher than last year.

Average house prices increased by 2.8% in England, 2.7% in Wales and 0.6% in Scotland over the year to August 2020. In Northern Ireland, average house prices increased by 3.0% over the year to Quarter 2 (Apr to June) 2020.

During July 2020, changes were made to Stamp Duty Land Tax, Land Transaction Tax and Land and Buildings Transaction Tax. The UK House Price Index (HPI) is based on completed housing transactions. Typically, a house purchase can take six to eight weeks to reach completion. Therefore, the price data feeding into the August 2020 UK HPI will mainly reflect those agreements that occurred before the tax changes took place.

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21 October 2020

Impact of Eat Out to Help Out on prices

Last month’s prices release revealed that the 12-month inflation rate – measured by the Consumer Prices Index including owner occupiers’ housing costs (CPIH) – had fallen to 0.5% in August 2020, the lowest since December 2015.

This was mostly driven by lower prices in restaurants and cafés, as a result of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme and the temporary reduction of Value Added Tax (VAT) from 20% to 5% for firms in the hospitality sector.

In the absence of Eat Out to Help Out and the VAT reduction, our analysis estimates that the inflation rate would have been approximately 0.9% in August, compared with the actual rate of 0.5%. Most of this difference comes from Eat Out to Help Out.

Under the scheme, participating restaurants could offer a 50% discount on food and non-alcoholic beverages consumed on the premises from Monday to Wednesday, up to the value of £10 per person, with the remaining 50% paid by the government.

UK restaurants made claims for around 100 million covers during August, to the value of £522 million. By region, the average discount per meal ranged from £5.17 in the South West to £6.36 in London.

Comparing card transaction data from the fintech Revolut for August with the rest of and before the lockdown, we can see how consumer behaviour responded to the Eat Out to Help Out scheme. There are normally fewer transactions at the beginning of the week, rising gradually from Monday to Thursday, and considerably more transactions on Friday and Saturday.

The average for August, when Eat Out to Help Out was running, showed a flattening of this trend with a higher than usual proportion of transactions earlier in the week (Monday to Wednesday) and a lower proportion than usual at the weekend. This suggests that the discount offered earlier in the week may have incentivised some people to eat out on days when they otherwise would not have.

The proportion being spent on Monday to Wednesday was also higher during August than at other periods, despite a 50% discount being in effect. This may partly reflect a change in the type of purchases being made at this time with a shift towards sit-down meals.

For the latest inflation data, read our bulletin for September 2020.

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21 October 2020

Public sector borrowing

Today’s public sector finance figures reflect the ongoing unprecedented impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown and the government’s support for individuals and businesses.

UK borrowing was £36.1 billion in September 2020, nearly five times the £7.7 billion borrowed in September 2019 but broadly in line with the £33.6 billion market expectation.

Central government tax receipts were £37.7 billion in September 2020 (on a national accounts basis), £6.0 billion less than in September 2019, with large falls in Value Added Tax (VAT), business rates and Corporation Tax receipts.

Central government bodies spent £77.8 billion in September 2020 on day-to-day activities (current expenditure), £18.1 billion more than in September 2019, including nearly £5.9 billion on its job furlough schemes.

Provisional estimates indicate borrowing in the first six months of the financial year-to-September 2020 have reached £208.5 billion, more than three times the £54.5 billion borrowed in the whole of 2019 to 2020.

The need for the extra funding required to support the government’s coronavirus relief schemes combined with a fall in gross domestic product (GDP) has helped push debt at the end of September 2020 to 103.5% of GDP, the highest debt ratio since the financial year ending March 1960.

Today’s data highlight the emerging fiscal impact of the coronavirus pandemic but will be prone to material future revisions, and it will take many months before the true scale of the shock becomes clear.

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15 October 2020

No increase in business closures yet

There was no increase in business closures in Quarter 3 (July to Sept) 2020, according to the latest data from the Inter-Departmental Business Register (IDBR).

While a higher number of closures might have been expected because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, business deaths in Quarter 3 were slightly lower than in the same period in 2019 and similar to the number of closures in Quarter 3 of the past three years taken together.

Notable lags in the removal of a business from the IDBR, because of economic, legal and statistical processes, may explain why business closures have not risen significantly in Quarter 2 (Apr to June) or Quarter 3. Increased business closures as a result of the coronavirus pandemic may yet be reflected in data in subsequent quarters.

In contrast, the number of business creations in the UK in Quarter 3 2020 was slightly higher than in Quarter 3 2019, following a small fall in Quarter 2 2020. This is somewhat contrary to expectations that business creation would be significantly lower as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

There is typically a shorter lag in adding businesses to the IDBR after the effective creation of the business than there is for removing businesses from the IDBR after their effective closure. As such, the rebound in Quarter 3 2020 is likely to reflect a genuine trend for increased business creation.

The types of businesses created during Quarter 3 2020 were also notably different to the types of businesses created in Quarter 3 in previous years. Broadly speaking, businesses created in this period were smaller than usual (based on both employment and turnover), with businesses created in Quarter 3 having fewer employees on average than in any other quarter in the past four years.

Industries less affected by the pandemic, including those that offer greater opportunities for homeworking such as professional and administrative services industries, made up a larger share of business births than usual in Quarter 3.

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13 October 2020

UK labour market

Our latest figures on the UK labour market have now been published.

Early estimates for September 2020 suggest that there is little change in the number of payroll employees in the UK, with an increase of 20,000 compared with August 2020. Since March 2020, the number of payroll employees has fallen by 673,000; however, the larger falls were seen at the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Data from our Labour Force Survey (LFS) show the employment rate has been decreasing since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, while the unemployment rate and the level of redundancies has been increasing in recent periods. Total hours worked, while still low, show signs of recovering and there are fewer people temporary away from work.

Redundancies increased by 113,000 on the year, and a record 114,000 on the quarter, to 227,000. The annual increase was the largest since April to June 2009, with the number of redundancies reaching its highest level since May to July 2009.

After a record low of 343,000 vacancies in April to June 2020, there was an increase to 488,000 vacancies in July to September 2020. The level of vacancies is still 40.5% lower than a year ago.

Annual growth in employee pay strengthened in August 2020 as employees continued to return to work from furlough; this followed strong falls in the months since April when growth was affected by lower pay for furloughed employees and reduced bonuses.

The Claimant Count, an Experimental Statistic, has increased by 120.3% since March 2020. This includes both those who are working with low income or hours and those who are not working.

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13 October 2020

Productivity measure sees largest fall since 2009

Labour productivity, as measured by output per hour, fell by 1.8% in Quarter 2 (Apr to June) 2020. This is the largest fall since Quarter 2 2009. This was driven by a measure of output, gross value added (GVA), falling faster than hours worked. Compared with the previous quarter, GVA fell by 21.5%, while hours worked fell by 20%.

Productivity as measured by output per worker fell by 19% in Quarter 2 compared with the previous quarter.

Output per hour and output per worker are usually more closely aligned, but the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), which allows companies to keep staff employed while working zero hours, has resulted in a large disparity between the two measures, as many furloughed workers are still employed but not producing any output.

Further estimates of the effect of the furlough scheme on labour productivity have been explored in our latest labour productivity bulletin.

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9 October 2020

GDP, August 2020

Monthly gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 2.1% in August 2020 as lockdown measures continued to ease. This is the fourth consecutive monthly increase following a record fall of 19.5% in April 2020.

The output of service industries remained 6.6% below the level of February 2020, growing by 2.4% in the latest month. The accommodation and food services sub-sector was the largest contributor to the increase in August.

The production industries remained 6.0% below their February 2020 level. Production grew by 0.3% in August 2020, with manufacturing growing by 0.7%.

Monthly construction output grew by 3.0% in August 2020, following record monthly growth of 21.8% in June 2020 and growth of 17.2% in July 2020; the level of construction output in August 2020 was 10.8% below the February 2020 level.

GDP grew by 8.0% in the three months to August 2020, as restrictions on movement eased across June, July and August. All headline sectors provided a positive contribution to GDP growth in the three months to August 2020.

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  • Coronavirus and the latest indicators for the UK economy and society

    This page has been superseded by the Economic activity and social change in the UK, real-time indicators page (see link in Notices) . This will be the new title and location of the bulletin presenting the real-time indicators of economic activity and social change, for 13 May 2021 and future releases.

  • Business insights and impacts on the UK

    This page is no longer updated. The bulletin has been renamed and is now published on the Business insights and impact on the UK economy page (see link in Notices), which contains analysis from Wave 18 onwards. All future BICS statistical bulletins will be made available there. The statistical bulletins on this page mainly reflect unweighted responses from the voluntary fortnightly business survey, which captures businesses’ responses on how their turnover, workforce prices, trade and business resilience have been affected in two-week reference periods, from Wave 2 up to Wave 17.

  • GDP monthly estimate, UK

    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 trade

    Total value of UK exports and imports of goods and services in current prices, chained volume measures and implied deflators.

  • Labour market overview, UK

    Estimates of employment, unemployment, economic inactivity and other employment-related statistics for the UK.

  • Public sector finances, UK

    How the relationship between UK public sector monthly income and expenditure leads to changes in deficit and debt.

  • Retail sales, Great Britain

    Retail sales fall following a wet April, according to a first estimate.

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