Did the Covid-19 local lockdowns reduce business activity in the UK?

James Hurley and Danny Walker

In 2020 governments around the world responded to Covid-19 (Covid) by introducing lockdown measures that were designed to slow the spread of the virus. Business activity fell materially. But it is difficult to isolate the impact of the local lockdown measures on business activity, given that business activity was affected by other factors such as voluntary social distancing at the same time. In this post we compare UK small and medium enterprises (SMEs) located close to the borders of – but not within – local lockdowns with similar businesses just inside, and conclude that the local lockdown measures causally reduced turnover growth by 8 percentage points relative to businesses outside of the lockdowns, driven by restaurants and non-food retail. Average turnover growth over the period was around -20%, which implies that the lockdowns accounted for only two fifths of the overall drop in business activity at most.

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Covid-19 briefing: pandemics, natural disasters and banks’ balance sheets

Neeltje van Horen

The Covid-19 (Covid) pandemic is a major shock to the economy but unlike traditional crises or credit crunches, its origin is exogenous to the financial sector. The economy’s ability to recover from the impact of the pandemic will however depend in part on the availability of credit. This raises the question how banks absorb a large shock which originates from outside the financial sector. To answer this question this post reviews the literature on how previous pandemics and natural disasters in the developed world affected banks’ balance sheets. One key message stands out: banks that are more rooted in their market are much more likely to continue lending when faced with the economic fallout from such shock.

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Consumption in the time of a pandemic: tracking UK consumption in real time

Sinem Hacioglu Hoke, Diego Kaenzig and Paolo Surico

The response to the Covid-19 pandemic has included closure of retail outlets and social distancing. How large was the resulting consumption fall in the UK? In a new paper, we try to answer this question using a transaction-level dataset of over 8 million individual transactions. This gives a near-real time read on consumer spending, without the publication lags associated with national accounts consumption data. We find that the bulk of the fall had occurred before legally mandated lockdown started. The largest declines occurred in retail, restaurants and transport, but spending on some items such as online shopping, alcohol and tobacco rose. There is substantial variation in change in consumption across age, income group, housing tenure and local authority.

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