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Issue Date: March 23rd 2019
Last modified: May 17th 2019
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Faster indicators of UK economic activity

This paper summarises the initial work we have carried out, exploring 3 datasets: HMRC UK Value Added Tax (VAT) returns, ship tracking data from automated identification systems (AIS) for UK waters, and road traffic sensor data for England.

This paper summarises the initial work we have carried out, exploring 3 datasets:

  • HMRC UK Value Added Tax (VAT) returns,
  • ship tracking data from automated identification systems (AIS) for UK waters,
  • and road traffic sensor data for England.

The Faster indicators of UK economic activity project, led by the Data Science Campus at the Office for National Statistics (ONS) is an innovative response to the challenge of producing faster economic information. This article summarises our work so far. The goals of the project are to:

  • identify close-to-real-time big data and administrative datasets, which represent useful economic concepts
  • create a set of indicators that allow early identification of large economic changes
  • provide insight into economic activity, at a level of timeliness and granularity not currently possible with official economic statistics.

It is important to note that we are not attempting to forecast or predict gross domestic product (GDP) or other headline economic statistics here, and the indicators should not be used in this way. Rather, by exploring big, closer-to-real-time datasets of activity likely to have an impact on the economy, we provide an early picture of a range of activities that supplement official economic statistics and may aid economic and monetary policymakers and analysts in interpreting the economic situation.

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