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Using data to inform local economic recovery

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COVID-19 has had a significant impact on local economies. The impacts will vary across different places and therefore it will be important that local policymakers understand how their area has been affected before developing policies and interventions.

To help local policymakers with this, we have recently launched a new resource that provides an overview of available data sources. These early and leading indicators will help policymakers understand how their local economy is changing. We will continue to refresh this briefing as new data sources are released.

The briefing highlights datasets that provide insights into local labour markets, movement and spending.

In relation to the labour market, the briefing identifies datasets that will help policymakers understand how local labour demand and supply is changing as a result of COVID-19. These datasets provide insights into the numbers and characteristics of workers that are being furloughed or are out of work, and into the number and type of job vacancies being advertised. This data will be essential in planning activities to support people back to work and for planning future skills provision. For example, data on job vacancies can be used to help decide what training would be most useful to provide.

Local economies rely on the movement of people and goods. The initial lockdown reduced movement significantly and understanding the extent to which this has returned to normal levels and patterns will help understand the pace of recovery. Data on movement will also help in planning actions to support town centres and in relation to future transport needs. Available data includes mobile phone and journey planning data from Google and Apple, data on transport use including TomTom’s traffic index and City Mapper’s mobility index and data that provides an overview of the number of visits to specific destinations such as high streets and shopping centres.

Similarly, spending data can help to understand how COVID-19 is impacting on local businesses such as shops and restaurants. Two types of spending data are available – those that show spend by household location and those that show spend by business location. The latter will be particularly important in helping policymakers understand how their high streets have been affected by COVID-19.

We strongly encourage local policymakers to explore these sources and to use data to guide their decision-making. Whilst all datasets, including those highlighted in the briefing, have limitations, data can provide timely and granular insights that are likely to lead to better policymaking at the local level.

Of course, this also holds true for more normal times. While a lot of our work is focused on increasing the use of evaluation evidence, we also believe it’s important that local areas use other sources of evidence to understand the issues they are seeking to address. Our guides to designing and effective Local Industrial Strategy and on the role data can play provide plenty of examples which are also helpful in thinking about developing the response to COVID-19.