New “super fast” government economic indicators suggested the UK economy lost momentum in March, with more firms reporting a fall in turnover than an increase.
Today saw the first release of a range of faster indicators compiled by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) using “big data” on things like VAT and road traffic.
The statistics organisation said the “indicators show a mixed picture” for the first quarter of the year, with most “around their average values” over the longer term.
The ONS’s new VAT diffusion index showed more firms in both the construction and wholesale and retail trade sectors reporting a fall in turnover than a rise in March compared to the month before.
In the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector more companies reported a rise in turnover than a fall.
Overall, more firms reported a drop than a rise, suggesting a slowing of the economy. Quarterly figures also showed a fall in expenditure among companies.
In January and February the average traffic counts for larger vehicles were broadly stable, close to their average between 2016 and 2018, the ONS data showed. The ONS said road traffic data for larger vehicles can indicate falls or rises in goods imports and exports.
The ONS hopes that this faster data help policymakers and analysts get a better picture of the health of the economy.
“It is important to note that we are not attempting to forecast or predict GDP,” the ONS said.
Louisa Nolan, ONS lead data scientist, said: “Today’s new release draws on new data sources to give much quicker signals of changes in the UK economy than was possible before.”
“These new indicators are part of our radical plans to transform the way we collect and produce information about our ever-changing and increasingly digital economy.”