The ONS’s inflation measurement change isn’t ‘new’

The way we measure inflation is changing, and there could hardly be a less crucial time for it to do so. The ONS will be updating the method for collecting individual prices from supermarkets, and will also publish new figures on inflation rates for different types of household. The anti-poverty campaigner Jack Monroe has tweeted that the ONS ‘have just announced that they are going to be changing the way they collect and report on the cost of food prices and inflation to take into consideration a wider range of income levels and household circumstances’. But Monroe, who hope that the new metrics will show that inflation is hitting poorer families harder, will

When will the economy recover to pre-pandemic levels?

New growth figures were released this morning show that the economy contracted 1.5 per cent in Q1 this year and remains 8.7 per cent smaller than it was in Q4 2019 (the last quarter not to be impacted by the pandemic). Alongside this update, the Office for National Statistics also released its latest set of monthly figures, which saw GDP rise by 2.1 per cent in March — the biggest boost since August last year — taking the economy to 5.9 per cent below pre-pandemic levels. That GDP fell by just 1.5 per cent overall once again illustrates the extent to which businesses have developed a resilience to lockdowns. The first

The ‘Covid deaths’ that are not caused by Covid

Registered Covid deaths fell to just one on Monday, leading many to comment that the epidemic in Britain is effectively over. One day’s statistics don’t mean an awful lot, especially over a bank holiday, but what about the wider picture? Over the UK as a whole, there have been 90 deaths over the past seven days, a fall of 41.2 per cent over the previous seven day period – although that, too, may be affected by the bank holiday. A more in-depth analysis, offering more context – although a little out of date – is provided by the latest weekly analysis of deaths from all causes, published today by the

Is the UK taking advantage of its vaccine success?

UK GDP ever so slightly edged up in February, growing 0.4 per cent according to today’s update from the Office for National Statistics. No surprises here: there were no changes to lockdown restrictions between January and February, which gave the economy little room for manoeuvre. The ONS has revised January’s GDP fall from 2.9 to 2.2 per cent: still a contraction, but another good indicator that businesses have significantly adapted to lockdown rules, which has meant that this winter’s lockdown didn’t plunge GDP down to record levels as it did last spring. Still, February serves as another reminder that – despite spectacular market innovation – there is a ceiling on

Has the current wave peaked?

Yesterday, the news was dominated by Imperial College’s React study which suggested – in contrast to the fall in recorded new infections – that the prevalence of Covid-19 in the general population was either static during the first ten days of lockdown (between 6 and 15 January), or could even have risen slightly. This morning, however, we have a second opinion in the form of the ONS infection survey, which like React is based on testing a randomised sample of the population. It suggests that the prevalence of Covid-19 did indeed fall in the first half of January – but not by all that much. Between 9 and 16 January,

Is the new Covid strain more deadly?

The new variant of Sars-CoV-2 is, according to government experts, 71 per cent more transmissible than the previous dominant form, increasing the reproductive rate by between 0.39 and 0.93. But is it any more or less deadly than the older version? All Nervtag has revealed is that there have been 4 deaths recorded among 1,000 cases of the new variant. A rough estimate of the infection fatality rate based on those figures would not be out of line with estimates for the virus as a whole — although the advisory group adds there is not yet enough data to draw any conclusions. If there were a dramatic difference between the

Could the Zoe app identify local Covid outbreaks?

In spite of the approval of one vaccine and the likely approval of at least two others, the government seems determined to push ahead with ‘operation moonshot’ — mass community testing along the lines of that being trialled in Liverpool. That is astonishing, not least because of the cost — put at £100 billion in one leaked document. There is also, as I wrote here a fortnight ago, the matter of the dismal accuracy of the lateral flow tests being used for community testing. It suggests that the government, for all the Prime Minister’s chirpiness this week, has little confidence that vaccination will put an end to the Covid pandemic any

What do excess deaths tell us about Covid?

Assessing the number of Covid deaths has been notoriously difficult throughout the pandemic. Over the summer, English figures were revised down by more than 5,000 after researchers at Oxford University discovered a flaw in the way Public Health England was registering deaths. Another route for assessing the mortality of Covid is to look at excess deaths — while comparing this year’s deaths to previous years is a blunt instrument, it is also in some ways more reliable. We may not know the reason for death but we know that more are occurring. Tuesday’s release by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) looking at weekly registered deaths in England and Wales painted a bleak picture. From the week

Is unemployment about to surge?

Despite experiencing the largest economic contraction in over 300 years, UK unemployment figures haven’t budged for months. The furlough scheme seems to have proved successful in shielding many jobs from getting the immediate axe, while those who were made redundant often didn’t appear in the official figures as they were not immediately looking for work. But today’s labour market overview from the ONS shows they have started to tick upward: unemployment is now at 4.1 per cent, 0.3 percentage points up from last year and 0.2 points up from the last quarter.  Breaking down the rate by age, it’s clear the young have suffered the most so far: unemployment for 16

Will the economy continue to bounce back?

The UK economy continues to bounce back – but it’s the coming months that could pour cold water on a V-shaped recovery. The economy grew 6.6 per cent in July, according to data from the Office for National Statistics, with the return of pubs, restaurants, hairdressers and more non-essential shops giving us another boost back towards pre-Covid levels. But there’s still a long way to go: despite a record-breaking growth rate between May and July, Britain is still nearly 12 per cent below its GDP level in February 2020, having experienced a record-breaking contraction – the biggest seen in 300 years, and the worst of any major economy during the

What is behind the increase of non-Covid related deaths?

The latest data on weekly deaths in England and Wales, published today by the Office of National Statistics, show what could be the beginning of a disturbing trend. From mid-June to mid-July, the number of excess deaths has been running at below the five-year average. But for the second week running, that has reversed: in the week ending 21 August there were 9,631 deaths, 474 higher (5.2 per cent) than the five-year average for this week of the year. The rise does not appear to have been caused by any increase in deaths from Covid-19, however. On the contrary, there were just 138 deaths for which the death certificate mentioned

Is Britain heading for the worst economic hit in Europe?

It’s odd to read headlines today saying that the UK has officially entered recession. We’ve known this for months: shops were closed, restaurants shuttered. You couldn’t get a cup of coffee or a haircut, offices were closed and millions furloughed. These were not normal times – but we knew that then, as we know it now. What we didn’t know was how far the economy had contracted, and how much this could be remedied by ending lockdown. The big news today, revealed by official figures released by the Office for National Statistics this morning, starts to answer this. It turns out that our economic hit was one of the hardest

Should we abandon hopes of a V-shaped recovery?

It is an uptick so small that it could almost be comic, but the UK economy started to grow in May: by 1.8 per cent following a 20 per cent slump in April. Office for National Statistics figures out today show that, even in lockdown, surging online retail sales – coupled with signs of a recovery in construction – show a small increase in GDP. The big question is what shape we can now see: a L, a Nike swoosh or a sharp V? Reopening the economy can only go so far: tackling people’s fear of Covid-19 is key for a V-shaped recovery Today’s increase suggests growth is  – every so

Are Britain’s employment figures too good to be true?

Lining up graphs of the UK’s growth figures last week and its employment figures this week, you would struggle to believe the data was from the same decade, let alone the same month. Despite the economy contracting by a quarter in March and April, unemployment figures haven’t budged: 3.9 per cent ending the month of April, unmoved from the quarter before, and more remarkably only up 0.1 per cent from the previous year.  The employment rate remains surprisingly high too: 76.4 per cent, down 0.1 per cent on the previous quarter. Despite the shuttering of the economy, employment and unemployment continue to hover at record highs and lows, like they

How fast can Britain recover from its economic free-fall?

Putting the UK into lockdown was only going to send growth in one direction: down. While today’s figures from the Office for National Statistics were expected, they nevertheless confirm that the UK has experienced its largest monthly economic contraction on record. The UK economy shrank 20.4 per cent in April. Combined with March’s GDP drop (now the second largest fall since records began), the British economy is a quarter smaller than it was in February. Putting these figures alongside other monthly slumps makes for stark comparison. Hits taken for additional bank holidays and for the pain experienced during the financial crash barely compare to what’s happened in light of the

Covid deaths – direct and indirect – will now be over 45,000

This week, the government has published a better measure of Covid-19 deaths by widening it out from hospital deaths to all settings. But what about those who have died without having had a test? Does the ‘improved’ estimate go far enough?  I think the simple answer is no. The mortality data is rising at a rate that suggests many more are dying who have not been tested. But there are ways of estimating and, as the former head of health analysis at the ONS, I have conducted my own study.  As of Wednesday 29 April, my figure is 45,290 deaths linked to Covid-19 in Great Britain. This is far higher than the

Is Britain really heading for a Brexit recession?

The sense of excitement among some Remainers is almost palpable. Finally – after three years of waiting – a quarter of negative growth has materialised following all the grim warnings of Brexit-related economic turmoil. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) this morning released its first estimate for economic growth for the second quarter of this year, which has come out at minus 0.2 per cent. That counteracts unexpectedly strong growth in the first quarter of 0.5 per cent. Manufacturing, which shrank by 2.3 per cent, was the worst-performing sector of the economy. The dominant services sector expanded but only just, at 0.1 per cent. Another quarter of negative growth and

We need to reimagine the UK’s coastal communities into a coastal powerhouse

The British public vote for Brexit sent shockwaves around major cities throughout the globe. However, in many of our coastal communities in the UK, the result came as no surprise at all. Indeed, out of the top five areas to vote leave in the country, every single one was a coastal town or city. Compare this with the top 5 spots to vote remain in England, Scotland and Wales, where no coastal constituency features on the list. For many of these coastal communities, people feel left out and left behind. Traditional industries have often departed and whilst some new sectors such as renewable energy have arrived many of the lost

Ross Clark

It’s a score draw on the economy for Brexiteers and Remainers

Yesterday was a golden day for the Despite Brexiteers – those who try to frame every piece of good economic news as if it is somehow a great surprise and shouldn’t really have happened. BMW announced that it is to build the electric version of the Mini in Britain, Amazon announced it was doubling the size of its research team in Britain, while according to the CBI, output from factories is growing at its fastest rate in 20 years. Today, though, comes news which is firmly on the other side of the fence: the ONS’s first estimate for economic growth has come in at 0.3 per cent. This is a

Thank goodness for doses of statistical reality

How did we mislay half a trillion pounds? Revised data from the Office for National Statistics has just reduced the UK’s ‘net international investment position’ from a surplus of £469 billion to a deficit of £22 billion. Downing Street dismissed this as ‘a technical revision’ — and in truth it’s not as bad it sounds, since what it tells us is that we own fewer foreign assets, and foreigners own more British assets, than had previously been recorded. Does national pride not attach to the idea that the rest of the world sees us as an investment safe haven? So why worry? Well, past miscounting apart, actual current trends in