Sunday, 29 May 2022

More Britons go out shopping and dining ahead of Easter – ONS

LONDON (Reuters) -Britain’s consumers increased visits to retailers and leisure providers in the run-up to the Easter holiday weekend and bookings at restaurants were their strongest in seven months, according to data published by the country’s statistics agency.

FILE PHOTO: A shopper carries a basket in a supermarket in London, Britain April 11, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall

Visits to retail and recreation locations increased by 8% to 91% of their pre-coronavirus levels in the week to April 15, which included the Good Friday bank holiday, the Office for National Statistics said on Thursday.

Seated diner reservations were 138% of 2019 levels, the highest relative level since early September 2021, the ONS said.

The Bank of England and private economists are keeping a close eye on how consumers respond to the sharp rise in inflation that is squeezing household incomes and threatens to slow the economy after its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ONS said interbank CHAPS payments data was broadly unchanged from the previous week at 105% of its February 2020 average level in the week to April 14.

But work-related spending, which includes the purchasing of road fuel, increased by 8 percentage points, reflecting how the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has pushed global oil prices higher.

In late March, 29% of functioning businesses reported that their production or suppliers or both had been affected by recent increases in energy prices, up from 25% in early March.

Accommodation and food service firms reported the highest percentage at 56%, the ONS said.

Average gas prices fell by 22% in the week to April 17 and were 41% off their recent peak on March 10. But they were 234% higher compared with the same period last year.

The BoE is also keeping a close eye on the labour market as it worries about the risk that a shortage of candidates for jobs pushes up pay and creates a longer-term inflation problem.

Total online job adverts increased by 4% in the week to April 14 April to 144% of their February 2020 average level, the ONS said, using data from jobs website Adzuna.

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