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Economic Data

Welcome to the ‘Economic Data’ section of Insight DIY, which includes a summary of all of the key UK economic indicators that you may need to know within your business. Each of these key indicators are updated as and when they are released by their various sources and provide a really valuable addition to any monthly report or business overview.

UK Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

Gross Domestic Product

Main points

  • UK gross domestic product (GDP) is estimated to have grown by 0.4% in February 2021, as government restrictions affecting economic activity remained broadly unchanged.

  • The service sector grew by 0.2% in February 2021, as wholesale and retail trade sales picked up a little but, overall, consumer-facing services industries remain well below pre-pandemic (February 2020) levels.

  • Output in the production sector grew by 1.0% in February 2021, as manufacturing grew 1.3% following contraction in January.

  • The construction sector grew by 1.6% in February 2021, driven by growth in both new work and repair and maintenance.
  • February’s GDP is 7.8% below the levels seen in February 2020, compared with 3.1% below the initial recovery peak in October 2020.

  • Latest estimates show that January’s GDP fell by 2.2%, an upward revision from negative 2.9%.

Release Date: 13th April 2021
Next Release Date: 12th May 2021

Preliminary, second and final estimates of GDP released over a quarter as more data becomes available. The final estimate is published in the Quarterly National Accounts. GDP is the main measure of UK economic growth based on the value of goods and services produced during a given period.

Source: Office for National Statistics

BRC - KPMG Retail Sales Monitor

Retail Sales image

Covering the five weeks 28 February – 3 April 2021

  • While total sales show growth, out of the 13 categories tracked, 8 remained in significant decline. The pandemic has concentrated spend on home centric categories such as food, computing and home appliances. While others, such as fashion and beauty remain in double digit decline compared to pre-pandemic levels.

  • On a Total basis, sales increased by 8.3 percent in March compared to the same period in 2019, against a decline of 0.5 percent in March 2019. This is above the 3-month average growth of 2.7 percent.

  • UK retail sales increased 8.4 percent on a Like-for-like basis from March 2019, when they had decreased 1.1 percent from the preceding year.

  • Over the three months to March on a 2-year basis, In-Store sales of Non-Food items declined 44.4 percent on a Total and 44.0 percent on a Like-for-like basis. This is worse than the 2019 Total average decline of 3.1 percent. For March, the 2-year like-for-like excluding temporarily closed stores remained in decline.

  • Over the three months to March over two years, Food sales increased 14.7 percent on a Like-for-like basis and 11.6 percent on a Total basis. This is higher than the 2019 Total average growth of 1.4 percent. For the month of March, Food was in growth year-on-year.

  • Over the three-months to March over two years, Non-Food retail sales decreased by 4.5 percent on a like-for-like basis and 4.7 percent on a Total basis. This is below the 2019 Total average decline of 1.3 percent. For the month of March, Non-Food was in growth year-on-year.

  • Online Non-Food sales increased by 94.0 percent in March on a 2-year basis, against a growth of 3.0 percent in March 2019. This is above the 3-mth average of 90.8 percent.

  • Non-Food Online penetration rate increased from 43.3 percent in March 2020 to 58.0 percent this March. 

Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive | British Retail Consortium
“As we pass the one-year anniversary of the first lockdown, the retail industry has generally remained strong, despite numerous challenges. 2020 was a year like no other, with panic buying followed by a sharp decline in consumer spend, and then the first national lockdown which resulted in erratic retail sales. This makes a direct comparison challenging, so for a truer indication of where the industry stands, we changed our year-on-year comparisons for a two-year, pre-pandemic comparison period. March 2021 saw an 8.3 percent increase in spending compared to March 2019, which was largely driven by grocery spending. However, the majority of categories remain in decline, and fashion and footwear remain the hardest hit. Meanwhile, with many stores still closed, online purchases reached the highest on record, particularly for TVs, gaming consoles and laptops.

“Despite some product ranges trading well, the next six months will be make or break for many retailers. Over the past three lockdowns, non-food retail stores have lost £30 billion, so many retailers will be relying on growing consumer confidence, and a return to town and city centres to fuel their recovery. Retail businesses have spent hundreds of millions making their stores Covid-secure, so customers can feel safe and confident whilst shopping. We remind people to be considerate and respectful of other shoppers and hard-working retail staff so we can all safely enjoy our nation’s return to its stores.” 

Paul Martin, UK Head of Retail | KPMG
“One year on from our first national lockdown the retail sector has changed dramatically, but remains remarkably resilient.  March last year was a real anomaly and unlike anything we have seen before, with queues of consumers panic buying items and images of empty shelves across our media.  Whilst a direct comparison of March 2021 with the previous year is therefore difficult, comparing retail sales of March 2021 to March 2019 reveals total sales have grown by 8.3 percent, despite the challenges of the last 12 months. In that context last month saw historic growth rates in online sales, with some categories like Men’s and Children’s clothing and Furniture reaching triple digits. This is testament to how retailers, many of which have spent much of the last year with their doors closed, have embraced trading through lockdown via digital platforms.

“As we enter the next stage of the Government’s roadmap to recovery this month, high streets across the country will be hoping that pent up demand from consumers will be released and cash registers will start to ring again.  Government support packages will provide some relief to struggling retailers until after the summer, but conditions will continue to be incredibly challenging as they face thinner margins and rising costs. All hopes of a strong recovery now rest on consumers feeling more confident to move away from their homes and hitting the high street to browse the stores that have been out of bounds for months.”

Susan Barratt, CEO | IGD

“Food and grocery showed a more restrained performance in March, following a strong February and nearly 12 months of elevated performance through the pandemic. However, March was still not a return to what we would usually expect for the time of year, as it was further distorted by the changed timing of Easter. Additionally, trading conditions have still been affected by the ongoing closure of non-essential retail and the out-of-home sector. We are unlikely to see a more settled, post-pandemic food and grocery performance until after restrictions further ease through April and May.

“IGD’s Shopper Confidence Index remained at its highest level since January 2020. Confidence improved towards the end of March as lockdown began to lift and the focus turned to outdoor family gatherings over Easter. While shopper sentiment is likely to improve as the economy opens up from April, confidence is likely to remain polarised, with confidence elevated among higher affluence groups but remaining fragile among lower affluence groups.”

Release Date: 13th April 2021
Next Release Date: 13th May 2021

Source: BRC

UK Construction Purchasing Managers' Index (Markit and CIPS)

Markit IHS 150 x 112.jpg

Index: 61.7 March 2021
Previous month: 53.3 (February 2021)

Construction output expands at sharpest pace since September 2014

Key findings:

  • Robust growth in all major categories of construction activity during March 
  • Fastest rise in commercial work for six-and-a-half years 
  • Job creation accelerates to 27-month high

The Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (CIPS) Construction Purchasing Manager's Index (PMI) is a diffusion index incorporating survey results provided by construction firms throughout the country. A reading above fifty suggests the construction sector is expanding, while a reading below fifty suggests the construction sector is in contraction. Policymakers and traders watch these surveys closely as purchasing managers usually have early access to data about their company’s performance, rather than waiting for the hard data to emerge.

Publication date: 8th April 2021
Next publication date: 5th May 2021

Source: Markit Economics

UK Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (Markit and CIPS)

Markit IHS 150 x 112.jpg

Index: 58.9 - March 2021
Previous month: 54.1 - January 2021

UK Manufacturing PMI at decade high as growth of output, new orders and employment gather pace

Key findings:

  • UK Manufacturing PMI at 58.9 in March (121-month high)
  • Business optimism at seven-year high 
  • Supply-chain disruption and inflationary pressures build

Publication date: 1st April 2021
Next publication date: 3rd May 2021

Source: Markit Economics

Nationwide House Price Index

House Prices

March 2021 Monthly Index*: 463.3 (February 2021: 464.4) 
Monthly Change*: -0.2% (February 2021: 0.7%)
Annual Change to March: 5.7% (to February: 6.9%)
March 2021 Average Price: £232,134 (February: £231,068) (not seasonally adjusted)

* Seasonally adjusted figure (note that monthly % changes are revised when seasonal adjustment factors are re-estimated)

Key Findings

  • Prices down 0.2% month-on-month, after taking account of seasonal factors
  • Policy support likely to boost housing market over the next six months, longer-term outlook remains highly uncertain
  • London sees the weakest growth in all of the UK in Q1

Commenting on the figures, Robert Gardner, Nationwide's Chief Economist, said: 

“Annual house price growth slowed to 5.7% in March, from 6.9% in February. Prices fell by 0.2% month-on-month, after taking account of seasonal effects, following a 0.7% rise in February. “Given that the wider economy and the labour market has performed better than expected in recent months, the slowdown in March probably reflects a softening of demand ahead of the original end of the stamp duty holiday before the Chancellor announced the extension in the Budget.

“Recent signs of economic resilience and the stimulus measures announced in the Budget, including the extension of the furlough scheme and the stamp duty holiday, as well as the introduction of a mortgage guarantee scheme, suggest that housing market activity is likely to remain buoyant over the next six months.

“The longer-term outlook remains highly uncertain. It may be that the recovery continues to gather momentum and that shifts in housing demand resulting from the pandemic continue to lift the market. However, if the labour market weakens towards the end of the year as policy support is withdrawn, as most analysts expect, then activity is likely to slow nearer the end of 2021, perhaps sharply."

Source: Nationwide House Price Index

Release Date: 28th March 2021
Next Release Date: 30th April 2021

Nationwide is the world's largest building society and one of the UK's largest mortgage providers. It has the longest unbroken run of house price data, stretching back to 1952 on a quarterly basis and 1991 on a monthly basis.  

ONS UK Retail Sales

Retail Sales

The ONS has reported on retail sales for the four-week period 31 January 2021 to 27 February 2021

Main Points

  • Retail sales volumes only partly recovered in February 2021 with an increase of 2.1% when compared with the 8.2% fall seen in the previous month, and sales were still down by 3.7% on a year earlier before the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

  • Non-food stores provided the largest positive contribution to the monthly growth in February 2021 sales volumes, aided by strong increases of 16.2% and 16.1% in department stores and household goods stores respectively.

  • Clothing retailers reported the largest fall, of 50.4%, in sales volumes when compared with February 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic; automotive fuel stores also reported a large annual decline of 26.5% as travel restrictions continued to hit sales in that sector.

  • In the three months to February 2021, retail sales volume fell by 6.3% when compared with the previous three months, with strong declines in both clothing stores and other non-food stores.

  • The proportion spent online increased to 36.1% in February 2021, the highest on record; this compares with 35.2% in January 2021 and 20.0% reported in February 2020.

Period: February 2021

Publication Date: 26th March 2021
Next Release Date: 23rd April 2021

Unless otherwise stated, the estimates in this release are seasonally adjusted.

Source: Office for National Statistics

UK Consumer Price Index (CPI)

CPIH image

Main points for February 2021:

  • The Consumer Prices Index including owner occupiers’ housing costs (CPIH) rose by 0.7% in the 12 months to February 2021, down from 0.9% to January.

  • The largest upward contribution to the CPIH 12-month inflation rate came from transport (0.30 percentage points).

  • Falling prices for clothing, second-hand cars, and games, toys and hobbies resulted in the largest downward contributions to the change in the CPIH 12-month inflation rate between January and February 2021.

  • These were partially offset by large upward contributions from rising prices for motor fuels, and housing and household services overall.

  • On a monthly basis, the CPIH rose by 0.1% in February 2021, compared with a larger rise of 0.3% in February 2020.

  • As a result of the ongoing restrictions caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in February 2021, the number of CPIH items identified as unavailable was 69, accounting for 8.3% of the basket by weight; this is unchanged from January 2021 but lower than the 72 items that were unavailable during the lockdown in November 2020; for the February 2021 price collection, we collected a weighted total of 81.1% of comparable coverage collected before the first lockdown (excluding unavailable items).

  • The Consumer Prices Index (CPI) rose by 0.4% in the 12 months to February 2021, down from 0.7% to January 2021; on a monthly basis, CPI rose by 0.1% in February 2021, compared with a 0.4% rise in February 2020.

  • The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has released a public statement on the coronavirus (COVID-19) and the production of statistics; Section 8: Measuring the data describes the situation in relation to consumer price statistics. 

Release Date: 24th March 2021
Next Release: 21st April 2021

Price indices, percentage changes and weights for the different measures of consumer price inflation. 

Source: Office for National Statistics

UK Producer Price Inflation (PPI)

Producer Price Index

Main points for February 2021: 

  • The headline rate of output inflation for goods leaving the factory gate showed positive growth of 0.9% on the year to February 2021, up from positive growth of 0.1% in January 2021.

  • The price for materials and fuels used in the manufacturing process showed positive growth of 2.6% on the year to February 2021, up from positive growth of 1.6% in January 2021.
  • Food products, and metals and non-metallic minerals provided the largest upward contribution to the annual rate of output and input inflation respectively.

  • The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has released a public statement on the coronavirus (COVID-19) and production of statistics; Section 8: Strengths and limitations describes the situation in relation to producer price inflation.

  • This is the fifth publication of producer price inflation using an annual chain-linked methodology - the headline indices are now published on a gross sector basis; more details on the impact of these improvements can be found in the article Impact of methodological impacts on PPI, which was released on 11 November 2020.

  • This is the first month producer price inflation is being published with updated sales data for 2021; the indices are now calculated using the weights from the December 2020 link period (see Section 7: Measuring the Data).

Release Date: 24th March 2021
Next Release: 21st April 2021

Source: Office for National Statistics

UK Labour Market

Unemployment office

Main points  

  • 693,000 fewer people were in payrolled employment in February 2021, when compared with February 2020.

  • 68,000 more people were in payrolled employment in February 2021, when compared with January 2021; this is the third consecutive monthly increase.

  • The UK employment rate, in the three months to January 2021, was estimated at 75.0%, 1.5 percentage points lower than a year earlier and 0.3 percentage points lower than the previous quarter.

  • The UK unemployment rate, in the three months to January 2021, was estimated at 5.0%, 1.1 percentage points higher than a year earlier and 0.1 percentage points higher than the previous quarter.

  • The UK economic inactivity rate was estimated at 21.0%, 0.6 percentage points higher than a year earlier and 0.3 percentage points higher than the previous quarter.

  • The redundancy rate, in the three months to January 2021, was estimated at 11.0 people per thousand employees.

  • There were an estimated 601,000 vacancies in the UK in December 2020 to February 2021; this is 220,000 fewer than a year ago and the rate of increase in vacancies has slowed strongly in recent months.

  • Growth in average total pay (including bonuses) among employees for the three months November 2020 to January 2021 increased to 4.8%, and growth in regular pay (excluding bonuses) increased to 4.2%; it is estimated that by removing the compositional effect, the underlying wage growth is around 3% for total pay and around 2.5% for regular pay.

Publication date: 23rd March 2021
Next publication date: 20th April 2021

The level and rate of UK unemployment measured by the Labour Force Survey (LFS) using a definition of unemployment specified by the International Labour Organisation. Unemployed people as those without a job who have been actively seeking work in the past 4 weeks and are available to start work in the next 2 weeks. It also includes those who are out of work but have found a job and are waiting to start it in the next 2 weeks.

Source: Office for National Statistics

GfK Consumer Confidence Index

GfK 150 x 112

Monthly Index: -16
Previous Month's Index: -23 (February 2021)
Monthly Index Previous Year: -9 (March 2020)
Period: March 2021

Joe Staton, GfK’s Client Strategy Director, comments, “Spring is in the air on the back of well-received Budget announcements, the successful vaccine roll-out and roadmaps in place for ending lockdown. All measures jumped in March with the Overall Index Score up a robust seven points to -16. This marks an improvement each month into 2021.

"The scores looking ahead one year are recovering especially well. The personal finance measure for the next 12 months is now at +10, which is the first time in three years it has been this high. Our measure on economic prospects for the next 12 months is also up 13 points to -17, a strong result following February’s equally strong 14-point boost.

"If this improved mood translates into spending, it might help reverse some of the economic damage the UK has suffered. And the eight-point fillip in our major purchase measure to the new level of -11 suggests this may well happen. It’s highly likely this upward trajectory on all measures will build over the next six months and beyond.”

UK Consumer Confidence Measures – March 2021

The Overall Index Score increased seven points to -16 in March. All five measures were up against the February 19th announcement.

Personal Financial Situation

The index measuring changes in personal finances over the last 12 months is up six points at -2; this is four points worse than March 2020. 

The forecast for personal finances over the next 12 months is also up six points this month at +10; this is seven points higher than this time last year.

General Economic Situation

The measure for the general economic situation of the country during the last 12 months is up four points at -60; but this is 37 points lower than in March 2020.  

Expectations for the general economic situation over the coming 12 months have jumped 13 points to -17; this is ten points higher than March 2020.

Major Purchase Index

The Major Purchase Index has increased by eight points to -11 in March; but this is still nine points lower than it was this month last year.

Savings Index

The Savings Index is up by two points to +21 in March; this is 11 points higher than this time last year.

Release Date: 16th March 2021
Next Release Date: 30th April 2021

Source: GfK

Bank of England: Bank Rate

Bank of England logo 150 x 112.jpg

Current bank rate: 0.1%
Previous bank rate: 0.1%

Release date: 18th March 2021
Next release date: 6th May 2021

Source : Bank of England

UK Population Figures

UK Census

UK population: 66,436,000 (mid 2018)
UK population: 66,040,229 (mid 2017)
Percentage change: +0.6%

2018 Data:

Male: 32.8 million (49.4%)
Female: 33.6 million (50.6%)

Estimated population of England: 55,977,000 (84.3% of the UK’s population)
Estimated population of Scotland: 5,438,000 (8.2% of the UK’s population)
Estimated population of Wales: 3,139,000 (4.7% of the UK’s population)
Estimated population of Northern Ireland: 1,882,000 (2.8% of the UK’s population)

Mid-year population estimates relate to the usually resident population. They account for long-term international migrants (people who change their country of usual residence for a period of 12 months or more) but do not account for short-term migrants (people who come to or leave the country for a period of less than 12 months). This approach is consistent with the standard UN definition for population estimates which is based upon the concept of usual residence and includes people who reside, or intend to reside, in the country for at least twelve months, whatever their nationality.

Data last updated: June 2019
Next update: June 2020

Source: ONS


Thank you for the excellent presentation that you gave at Woodbury Park on Thursday morning. It was very interesting and thought-provoking for our Retail members. The feedback has been excellent.

Martin Elliott. Chief Executive - Home Hardware.

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