GDP – Bringing the big picture up-to-date

Image depicting income data, charts and a pile of coins

Today the Office for National Statistics has brought previously announced updates for the pandemic period into its official GDP figures and updated its figures for 2022 and the first half of 2023. As Craig McLaren explains, after the improved picture for 2020 and 2021, today’s figures leave the picture of the UK economy over the last 18 months broadly unchanged.

We recently announced updates on our estimates of GDP up to 2021 with newly available data, including on taxes and costs – which can take a while to collect. As a result the economy fell less in 2020 and grew more in 2021 than we previously estimated.

What’s new today?

Today we have also set out for the first time the impact of both these changes and also new data for 2022 and 2023. Our updated growth estimates are very similar to our first ones, with only one of the last six quarters being revised. However, these routine revisions have not changed our understanding of how quickly the economy has grown over the last 18 months.

It is worth noting that many other economies are going through the same process of reviewing and updating their economic data as new more complete information becomes available, with several others reporting revisions of a similar scale. Our estimates for growth increased by +1.1 percentage points for 2021, while Spain also increased its by +1.1 percentage points, the Netherlands by +1.3, and Italy also by +1.3.

Revisions reflect the latest available data

As we pointed out in an earlier blog, GDP revisions are not ‘errors’; they are a natural feature of how countries compile their national accounts.

Collecting and publishing estimates for growth and many other areas of our society and economy were clearly challenging during a once-in-a-century pandemic, which fundamentally shifted all aspects of how our economy functioned. The revisions performance for the UK economy in normal times compares well with the best in the world. So we are confident that moving forwards both our initial and later estimates for growth will remain a trusted data source for economic policymakers.

Nevertheless, as the National Statistician has explained in that blog, recent experience has also underlined the need both to accelerate the collection of some of the important datasets that complete the GDP picture and more fully exploit the advantages of big data. The continual improvement of our economic statistics is work to which of all of us at the ONS are fully committed.


Craig McLaren

Craig McLaren is Head of National Accounts at the ONS