UK Business Concerns Ease, but Some Challenges Remain

Approximately two-thirds (65%) of businesses in the UK reported some level of concern for their operations in September 2023, marking the lowest percentage since November 2022 when it peaked at 76%. This data was gathered as part of Wave 90 of the Business Insights and Conditions Survey, with responses collected from August 21 to August 29, 2023.

While business concerns have slightly abated, it’s worth noting that the number of potential redundancies remained high. Calculated as a rolling four-week average, the week ending on August 20, 2023, saw a 129% increase in potential redundancies compared to the same week in 2022. This increase is partly attributed to a significant number of potential redundancies from a single employer. The number of employers proposing redundancies was also 25% higher than the equivalent week in 2022.

Consumer Behavior Shows Signs of Recovery

In terms of consumer behavior, there are positive signs. Consumer activity increased during the latest week, coinciding with the summer bank holiday weekend. Revolut debit card spending, for example, rose by 4 percentage points. This increase was driven by higher spending in retail, entertainment, and pubs, restaurants, and fast-food establishments.

Additionally, overall retail footfall increased to 102% of the level of the previous week. This boost can be attributed to the summer bank holiday weekend, which was observed across England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. However, it’s important to note that retail footfall is still below the levels seen in the equivalent period of 2019.

Energy Prices Experience Fluctuations

Regarding energy prices, the System Average Price (SAP) of gas saw a notable increase for three consecutive weeks in 2023, with an 8% rise compared to the previous week. Similarly, the System Price of electricity increased by 15% during the same period. However, both gas and electricity prices remain substantially lower (81%) than they were at the same time the previous year.

Transport and Job Adverts Show Mixed Trends

Transportation indicators suggest mixed trends. Average traffic camera activity for cars in London increased by 2% compared to the previous week. Likewise, the average number of UK flights increased by 1% from the week before and was 8% higher compared to the same week in 2022.

In contrast, the total number of online job adverts fell by 1% on August 25, 2023, compared to the previous week. It also remains 7% below the level of the same period last year.

These insights provide an overview of the UK’s economic activity and consumer behavior, highlighting both areas of improvement and ongoing challenges. It’s important to note that the data presented in this bulletin is experimental and may be subject to revision as data sources are regularly reviewed for accuracy and relevance.