The Data Observatory
The NRLA Data Observatory is a collection of official and other well-established data sources which when combined, provide a narrative of the Private Rented Sector (PRS). The NRLA tracks approximately 45 key data sets which are updated monthly, quarterly and annually. A selection of these data sets appear in these pages.
Our Deep Insight blog provides a regular extension of the analysis which appears here, as well as those datasets which are not published in the Data Observatory section of this website.
The blog pages also features blog posts from other organisations and academics to provide insight on the PRS. Here you can also find more in-depth summaries of our regular reports and surveys.
Growth & the PRS
Chart 1: Change in GDP-measured quarterly
This data shows the impact of coronavirus on the UK economy, and the extent to which the economy has recovered since the unique peace-time blow the economy suffered in the first half of 2020.
Quarter 2 was the largest quarterly contraction in the UK economy since ONS records began in 1955. Quarter 3 was also an ONS record: The revised 16% growth in Quarter 3 was the largest economic expansion since 1955.
Quarter 4 saw more modest growth of 1% - the economy still deep in the Covid-19 crisis. Note that the quarterly growth of 1% is the highest quarterly growth the economy has recorded since the London Olympics in 2012. It is an exceptional quarterly growth (although is still only a component of economic 'bounceback' from 2020). The economy remains 7.8% smaller than at the end of 2019.
Note that GDP is always subject to some revision. The data presented here is based on the ONS GDP first quarterly estimate published in February 2021.
Changes in price indices
Chart 2: Private rental price changes compared to other price indices - March 2021
The chart above focuses on price changes in the economy since 2017. It shows three different measures of price change. Firstly, the Consumer Price Index (favoured by economists as the measure of overall price change in the economy). Secondly the CPIH, this index factors in the housing costs of owner occupiers.
Finally the chart shows the Index of Private Housing Rental Prices (IPHRP) – an index tracking the prices paid for renting property from private landlords in the UK. Like the other price indices, the IPHRP is compiled by the ONS. It is the best available measure of housing costs in the Private Rented Sector amongst both new and existing tenants. This article, written by the ONS explains why this measure is a more complete, more robust measure of price changes in the PRS than other industry-generated measures.
In March the IPHRP index remained at 110.2 - the nationwide (UK) measure of rental prices indicated no change in prices since the February figures: UK rental prices in the private sector have grown 10.2% since January 2015 (the base period for the index).
At present, growth in the annual index of rental prices is ahead of the other two price indices, although the difference is small (the CPI index is at 109.4 and CPIH is 109.7 - with a similar base date). A quick look at the visual indicates the gap is narrowing - it is too early to say whether this a trend (the previous analysis indicated the gap may have been widening).
One thing that is worth mentioning is the technical construction of the index. There is more information on this here. Without getting bogged down in the detail, the Index is now looking at rental contracts and prices shaped entirely by the pandemic-shaped world. How the index changes over the next six-twelve months may be very different. It should also be noted that rental growth is not uniform across the country. The NRLA discuss regional differences in the index here.
The IPHRP (Index of Private Housing Rental Prices) is “an experimental price index tracking the prices paid for renting property from private landlords in the United Kingdom.” (ONS). For more information on the IPHRP and how the ONS are planning to make further improvements to measuring rental prices, see this article here.
Wages & the PRS
Chart 3: A comparison between wages & rental prices (Latest figures: Jan & Feb 2021)
This chart shows the growth in real wages (allowing for inflation) against the growth in the IPHRP. It shows the dramatic impact on real wages Coronavirus has had on the labour market.
It is clear on the chart how wages fell at the outset of Covid-19 since when there appears to have been a dramatic and sustained increase in wages. The most recent data does indicate some slowing down of the apparent rapid growth in wages since the autumn. Annual wage growth in February was 3.2%, which may be down from January but is EIGHT times the rate of inflation (CPI for Feb 2021 being 0.4%).
According to wage data it appears GB workers have never had it so good, with real wages consistently outstripping price indices since August 2020.
This would seem to diverge from reality: contract and lower paid workers are being taken off payrolls, whilst management level employees are returning from furlough. ONS measures of wage growth - this particular measure does not include the self-employed - are just not able to reflect these unique circumstances.
It may not be until the economy fully reopens that the ONS measure of wage growth becomes more reliable as an economic indicator.
[Note: Wage data is prone to revisions, which can be significant, especially during 2020 (and 2021) when labour markets, employment and wages have been subject to furlough schemes and sudden shocks.] Note that the data on wages is based on surveys of employers and do not include self-employed workers.]