Coronavirus and the latest indicators for the UK economy and society: 26 November 2020

Early experimental data on the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on the UK economy and society. These faster indicators are created using rapid response surveys, novel data sources and experimental methods.

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Contact:
Email David Matthewson

Release date:
26 November 2020

Next release:
3 December 2020

1. Main points

  • According to the Business Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Survey, 15% of the workforce of UK businesses that have not permanently ceased trading were on partial or full furlough leave (an increase from 9% in Wave 17). See Section 3.

  • According to the latest Opinions and Lifestyle Survey, the proportion of adults in Great Britain shopping for things other than food and medicine remained low, at 12%. See Section 4.

  • Prices of items in the food and drink basket decreased by 0.1% in the latest week. See Section 6.

  • Between 13 November and 20 November 2020, total online job adverts increased by 2 percentage points but is still only 71% of the level seen in the same week last year. See Section 7.

  • According to Springboard, in the week ending 22 November 2020, overall UK footfall was at 45% of the level seen at the same time last year. See Section 8.

  • On Monday 23 November 2020, the volume of all motor vehicle traffic remained 22 percentage points below the levels seen on the first Monday of February 2020. See Section 9.

  • In the week ending 22 November 2020, the average number of daily ships visits in the UK decreased to 277 visits from 291 in the previous week. See Section 10.

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Results presented throughout this bulletin are experimental and may be subject to revision.

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2. Latest indicators at a glance

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Source: Office for National Statistics – Faster indicators

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3. Business impact of the coronavirus

Initial results from Wave 18 of the Business Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Survey (BICS) are for the period 2 to 15 November, which closes on 29 November 2020. Out of approximately 39,000 UK businesses sampled, 23% had responded as of 24 November.

Please note that these data were collected over the period 16 to 24 November 2020 and refer to the period 2 to 15 November 2020. This should be kept in mind in relation to the timing of local and national lockdowns and dependent on the location and date when the business responded, as these could have an impact on the estimates.

All data in this section are weighted estimates. A detailed description of the weighting methodology and its differences to unweighted estimates is available in Business Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Survey: preliminary weighted results.

Across all UK industries, in Wave 18:

  • 75% of businesses had been trading for more than the last two weeks (a decrease from 79% in Wave 17)

  • 2% of businesses had started trading within the last two weeks after a pause in trading

  • 8% of businesses had paused trading but intend to restart in the next two weeks (an increase from 3% in Wave 17)

  • 13% of businesses had paused trading and do not intend to restart in the next two weeks

  • 2% of businesses had permanently ceased trading

In Wave 18 (2 to 15 November 2020), the percentage of UK businesses temporarily closed or paused trading has risen to levels last seen in Wave 8 (15 June to 28 June 2020).

Of UK businesses that have not permanently ceased trading:

  • 15% of their workforce were on partial or full furlough leave (an increase from 9% in Wave 17)

  • 30% were working remotely (an increase from 28%)

  • 51% were working at their normal place of work (a decrease from 60%)

Table 1 shows the financial performance of UK businesses currently trading.

When asked about their cash reserves, of UK businesses that have not permanently ceased trading:

  • 5% said that they had no cash reserves

  • 43% said that they had less than six months

  • 35% said that they had more than six months

  • 17% said that they were not sure

Of UK businesses that had not permanently ceased trading, 40% had high confidence that their business will survive the next three months, 39% had moderate confidence, 13% had no or low confidence, and 8% were not sure.

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4. Social impacts of the coronavirus on Great Britain

This section includes some headline results from Wave 34 of the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN) covering the period 18 to 22 November 2020.

Travelling to work

In the week ending 22 November 2020, the proportion of adults in Great Britain who:

  • worked exclusively from home remained stable at 30%

  • travelled to work increased by five percentage points to 56%

  • neither travelled to work nor worked from home decreased by four percentage points to 14%

Shopping

The proportions of adults that shopped for food and medicine, and things other than food and medicine, have remained relatively stable, at 71% and 12% respectively. These levels could be attributed to recent national restrictions in England.

Face coverings

The proportion of adults who have used a face covering remained stable at 97%. Further breakdowns such as the situations when a face covering was worn (for example, while shopping) and by the Great Britain countries, will be available in Coronavirus and the social impacts on Great Britain published on 27 November 2020.

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5. Company incorporations and voluntary dissolution applications

Incorporations

Voluntary dissolution applications

For more information on other measures of company closures not presented here, see Weekly indicators of company creations and closures from Companies House methodology: August 2020.

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6. Online price change in food and drink basket

A timely indication of weekly online price change for a selection of food and drink products from several, large UK retailers has been developed, covering the period 1 June to 22 November 2020. Details of the methodology used for these indicators can be found in Online price changes methodology. This analysis is experimental and should not be compared with our regular consumer price statistics.

The data time series, weekly growth rates, and contributions to the weekly change for all individual food and drink items, along with sample sizes, are published in a dataset alongside this release.

The addition of data, originally missing from the collection in the week ending 15 November 2020, has resulted in minor revisions to that week’s figures.

Online prices of items in the food and drink basket decreased overall by 0.1% between the week ending 15 November 2020 and the week ending 22 November 2020. This is the sixth consecutive week of price decreases across all food and drink items. Figure 4 presents the contributions to the latest weekly change from each of the main categories of items.

There were two main contributors to the overall price fall in the latest week. Firstly, the category of mineral waters, soft drinks and juices contributed negative 0.04 percentage points to the overall fall in the food and drink basket in the latest week, over half of which came from price decreases for fizzy drinks. Fruit prices also contributed negative 0.04 percentage points, half of which came from price decreases for peanuts, although 11 of the 18 “fruit” items showed price decreases.

Spirits was also a large contributor to the overall price fall in the latest week. This category contributed negative 0.03 percentage points to the overall fall, driven by price falls for all spirit items except alcopops.

Several categories experienced price rises, partially offsetting these falls in the latest week. This includes bread and cereals, which was the main contributor to last week’s overall price fall.

Figure 5 with the data time series for the all-item index and some of the leading categories of the weekly change, shows that the all-item index has been on a broadly downward trend since the beginning of June 2020. It has now fallen for the sixth consecutive week.

Mineral waters, soft drinks and juices, and spirits have shown broadly similar trends over the last few months, with prices peaking in early October 2020 before steadily falling in recent weeks. Fruit prices peaked at the end of October 2020, but prices have also started to drop. All three categories are now slightly below their starting point in June 2020.

The oils and fats category, while having a minor contribution to the week-on-week changes, has shown a continuous decline since June 2020 and is now 6.3% lower than its starting point.

Within the oils and fats category, margarine and olive oil have been the biggest drivers behind the downward trend.

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7. Online job adverts

These figures use job adverts provided by Adzuna, an online job search engine, and include experimental estimates of online job adverts by Adzuna category and by UK country and NUTS1 region. The number of job adverts over time is an indicator of the demand for labour. The Adzuna categories used do not correspond to Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) categories, so these values are not directly comparable with the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Vacancy Survey.

Users should be aware that we have changed the presentation of our online job advert data to show the percentage change from the same week in the previous year of each category. This replaces our previous analyses, which compared the current period with a whole of 2019 average, and removes some of the seasonality that previous comparisons may have contained.

Users should also be aware that the 2019 average data will still be published alongside the percentage change from the same week in the previous year.

Figure 6: Between 13 November and 20 November 2020, total online job adverts increased by two percentage points but are still only 71% of the level seen in the same week last year

Total weekly job adverts on Adzuna, UK, 4 January 2019 to 20 November 2020, percentage change from the same week in the previous year

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Notes:

  1. The observations were collected on a roughly weekly basis; however, before June 2020 they were not all observed at the same point in each week, leading to slightly irregular gaps between some observations.

  2. These series have a small number of missing weeks, mostly in late 2019, and the latest is in January 2020. These values have been imputed using linear interpolation. The data points that have been imputed are clearly marked in the accompanying dataset.

  3. Further category breakdowns are included in the Online job advert estimates dataset, and more details on the methodology can be found in Using Adzuna data to derive an indicator of weekly vacancies.

Data download

In the latest week, total online job adverts saw a slight increase of two percentage points but are still only 71% of the level seen in the same week last year, compared with 69% in the previous week.

Catering and hospitality saw the largest annual decrease to just 25% of the level of online job adverts seen in the same period last year. Healthcare and education remain the categories with the highest volume of online job adverts in comparison with a year ago. Both are around 80% of the level seen in the same period last year.

Excluding the “unknown” category, in comparison with the previous week, the number of online job adverts increased in 21 of the Adzuna categories, decreased in five categories, and stayed the same in the remaining two. The largest weekly increase came from “charity/volunteering”, which increased by 10 percentage points, followed by “other/general”, which increased by nine percentage points on the week.

The largest weekly decrease of five percentage points came from “energy/oil and gas”. Please note the trends of all the categories discussed can be seen in the accompanying dataset.

Figure 7: Online job adverts for all UK regions increased in the latest week

Total weekly job adverts on Adzuna, UK, 4 January 2019 to 20 November 2020, percentage change from the same week in the previous year

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Notes:

  1. There is a level shift in the Northern Ireland series from 17 October 2019 due to a large source of Northern Ireland job adverts being removed, and another level shift from 7 August 2020 because of a new source being included.

  2. The October 2020 spike and most recent weekly increase in the Northern Ireland series should be treated with caution because of the increased coverage from a year ago.

Data download

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8. Footfall

These figures are provided by Springboard, a provider of data on customer activity. They measure the volume of footfall compared with the same day the previous year at the overall level and across the categories of high streets, retail parks and shopping centres. For example, Sunday 22 November 2020 was compared with Sunday 24 November 2019.

Figure 8 shows that in the latest week, the overall seven-day average footfall remained similar to the previous week, at 45% of the level seen the same day last year. This remains above the spring lockdown low point seen in the week ending 12 April 2020.

Footfall across all retail locations in the UK increased slightly in the latest week compared with the previous week. Footfall across retail parks in the UK increased in the latest week compared with the previous week by three percentage points to 71% of levels seen last year. Footfall on high streets and shopping centres each saw a slight increase, to 37% of levels seen the same time last year.

Figure 9 shows the volume of footfall in each English region and UK country compared with the same day the previous year. In the latest week, (week ending 22 November 2020) footfall increased substantially in Northern Ireland to 73% of levels seen last year, a 12 percentage point increase on the previous week. This can be explained by the temporary removal of some restrictions under Northern Ireland’s circuit breaker and a surge in retail activity ahead of new restrictions coming into force from 27 November 2020. Footfall increased slightly in Scotland and across all English regions except the East Midlands.

Wales experienced a decline of two percentage points on the previous week. Despite this, Wales continues to see volumes of weekly footfall similar to those seen before the national firebreak, which ended on 9 November 2020. The East Midlands also saw a slight decrease in footfall.

A full list of national restrictions is available from the Department of Health and Social Care for England, from the Scottish Government for Scotland, the Welsh Government for Wales and from nidirect for Northern Ireland.

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9. Roads and traffic camera data

Road traffic in Great Britain

The Department for Transport (DfT) produces daily road traffic estimates using data from around 275 automatic traffic count sites across Great Britain covering all road types, which are published weekly.

The daily DfT estimates are indexed to the first week of February 2020 and the comparison is with the same day of the week. The data provided are useful as an indication of traffic change rather than actual traffic volumes. More information on the methods, quality and economic analysis for these indicators can be found in the methodology article.

Road traffic levels across the vehicle categories on Monday 23 November 2020 remained similar to the previous week. Road traffic across total motor vehicles was 22 percentage points lower than the first Monday in February 2020, the same level as the previous week.

Both light commercial vehicle traffic and heavy goods vehicle traffic increased by one percentage point when compared with the previous week; the car traffic level remained the same. However, other than heavy goods vehicles (HGVs), traffic levels in all categories remain substantially lower than before 5 November 2020, when national restrictions began in England.

Traffic camera activity

Traffic cameras are a valuable source for understanding the level of activity in towns and cities as well as changing patterns of mobility. The UK has thousands of publicly accessible traffic cameras with providers ranging from national agencies to local authorities.

Further information on the methodology used to produce these data is available in our methodology article and Data Science Campus blog.

In the accompanying dataset, the following categories are available as non-seasonally adjusted, seasonally adjusted and trend data:

  • cars

  • motorbikes (only available for London and the North East)

  • buses

  • trucks

  • vans

  • pedestrians and cyclists

The categories are available for the following regions, which give a broad coverage across the UK and represent a range of different-sized settlements in urban and rural settings:

Figure 11: In the week ending 22 November 2020, average counts of all traffic camera activity increased in London when compared with the previous week

Activity in selected areas, daily counts of cars, buses, pedestrians and cyclists, seasonally adjusted, March to November 2020, UK

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Notes:

  1. The regions shown here were selected to be representative of the regions available.

  2. Traffic camera images capture the appearance of buses, but they give no indication of the number of passengers using public transport.

  3. Pre-March 2020 lockdown averages are calculated from when the series started, 11 March to 22 March 2020 for London.

  4. Greater Manchester moved into Tier 3 "very high" coronavirus alert level on 23 October 2020. London moved into Tier 2 on 16 October 2020. Northern Ireland introduced a four week "circuit breaker" with additional restrictions on 16 October 2020.

  5. From Thursday 5 November until Wednesday 2 December 2020, England has entered a period of national restrictions which, amongst other measures, has asked the public to stay at home.

Data download

In London, in the latest week (week ending 22 November 2020), average counts of all categories increased when compared with the previous week, although they remained lower than the counts pre-March 2020 lockdown. Cars were at 72% of their pre-March 2020 lockdown levels, trucks at 83%, and pedestrians and cyclists 73%.

In Greater Manchester, average counts of cars increased slightly when compared with the previous week, by 3%, but all other categories showed a very small decrease.

In Northern Ireland, average counts of cars and pedestrians and cyclists increased slightly but average counts of buses, trucks and vans all decreased slightly.

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10. Shipping

These shipping indicators are based on counts of all vessels, cargo and tanker vessels and passenger vessels. As discussed in Faster indicators of UK economic activity: shipping, we expect the shipping indicators to be related to the import and export of goods.

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11. Data

Weekly and daily shipping indicators
Dataset | Released 26 November 2020
The weekly and daily shipping indicators dataset associated with the faster indicators of UK economic activity.

Online job advert estimates
Dataset | Released 26 November 2020
Experimental job advert indices covering the UK job market.

Traffic camera activity
Dataset | Released 26 November 2020
Experimental dataset for busyness indices covering the UK.

Online weekly price changes
Dataset | Released 26 November 2020
The online price changes for a selection of food and drink products from several large UK retailers. These data are experimental estimates developed to deliver timely indicators to help understand the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

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12. Glossary

Company incorporations

Incorporations are when a company is added to the Companies House register of limited companies. This can also include where an existing business applies to become a limited company, where it was not one before.

Faster indicator

A faster indicator provides insights into economic activity using close-to-real-time big data, administrative data sources, rapid response surveys or Experimental Statistics, which represent useful economic and social concepts.

Voluntary dissolution applications

A voluntary dissolution application is when a company applies to begin dissolution proceedings. As such, they effectively chose to be removed from the Companies House register. For a company to be eligible to voluntarily dissolve, it should not have completed any trading activity for a period of three months.

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13. Measuring the data

Detailed information on the data sources, quality and methodology of the different indicators included in this bulletin is available in the Coronavirus and the latest indicators of the UK economy and society methodology.

We will summarise any crucial updates to the quality or methodology in this section in the future.

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14. Strengths and limitations

Detailed information on the strengths and limitations of the different indicators included in this bulletin is available in the Coronavirus and the latest indicators of the UK economy and society methodology.

We will summarise any crucial updates or warnings in this section in the future.

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Contact details for this Statistical bulletin

David Matthewson
faster.indicators@ons.gov.uk
Telephone: +44 (0)1633 455612