The State of Britain

NW

An impressive increase in the NW’s productivity and house prices rise by 15%

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A nowcast for the NW for the 12 months ended March 2021 which incorporates the second lockdown, published by the Economic Statistic Centre of Excellence (‘ESCoE’) on a rolling 4 quarter basis, has estimated that the NW economy contracted by 12.7%.

This ranked the NW ninth in the UK (previous ranking fifth). Over the same period the East Midlands was ‘best’ with a fall of 9.4%, with Wales’s 13.4% contraction the ‘worst’. The UK overall posted -11.8% on the same measure.

ESCoE is a partnership of research institutions and the Office for National Statistics (‘ONS’) and has highlighted that during these unprecedented times, with differing lockdowns, there is no historical data that their model can use to fully understand how the pandemic will impact regional economies.

Consequently the partnership emphasises the uncertainties that exist with their nowcast at this time. This is the last nowcast that will be published by ESCoE with the ONS taking over the running of the model in the future.

ONS GDP to December 2020

Official ONS figures for an earlier period which reflect a mix of continued recovery from the first lockdown but also a slowdown from the second lockdown show the region’s performance relative to other parts of the UK.

The ONS’s figures for the quarter to December 2020 showed the NW post growth of 0.7% compared with 19.3% to September 2020.

This placed the NW seventh (previous ranking third) out of the twelve UK ‘regions’. London was top with quarterly growth of 3.1% whilst the East Midlands was bottom, posting growth of -0.8%. UK growth was 1%.

In this period, the NW’s best sector was financial services at 4.6% whilst accommodation fell by 22.1. Production, Construction and Services were 2.8%, 2.0% and 0.1%.

Labour

Data from the ONS showed the Job Retention Scheme continued to mitigate unemployment across the UK. Unemployment in the region fell by 16,000 to 174,000 between March and May 2021; the drop of 0.4% took the rate to 4.9%. At 6.5% London had the highest rate; Northern Ireland had the lowest rate of 3.6%, with the UK rate at 4.8%.

The South East had the highest employment rate at 77.7%, this compared with 70.3% in Northern Ireland and 73% in the NW where 3.4m are employed; the UK rate was 74.7%.

Public sector employment in the NW increased by 3.2% to 643,000 in the year to March 2021, which was 19% of the workforce. At 25.9% Northern Ireland had the highest level of public sector employment which compared to 14.8% in London which was the lowest.

Productivity

ONS figures also showed that in 2020, output per hour worked increased by 4.6% in the NW which ranked the region top out of the 12 UK ‘regions’. Productivity fell the most in the West Midlands, decreasing by 1.4%. Output per hour worked in the UK increased by 0.4%.

Research and Development

The region attracted £3bn of R&D spend in 2019, similar to 2018. This ranked the NW fourth in the UK (previous ranking fifth). Over the same period the South East did best and secured £7.5bn of R&D expenditure with the North East only attracting £0.7bn.

Overall UK R&D spend rose by £1.3bn (3.4%) to £38.5bn in 2019 – the lowest percentage growth since 2013. Most R&D expenditure was in the business sector at £25.9bn (67% of the UK total), followed by the higher education sector at £9.1bn (24%).

Total R&D expenditure represented 1.74% of GDP in 2019; compared with 1.59% in 2008 and 1.72% in 2018. Overseas funding increased by 4.1% to £5.6bn in 2019 compared with 2018; this was 0.8% higher than the peak in 2014 of £5.5bn.

Housing

The NW’s average property price increased by 1.4% in May to £143,129. The uplift took the annual increase to 15.2%. In comparison, UK prices grew by 0.9% to £254,624, an annual growth rate of 10%.

The North West’s economy second best out of the first Lockdown

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Official ONS figures which reflect the economy opening up after the first lockdown show the region’s performance relative to other parts of the UK.

These stats compare GDP in the quarter ended September 2020 with the same quarter a year earlier. These showed that the NW’s growth was -4.2% compared with -21% the previous quarter. This placed the NW second (previous ranking fourth) out of the twelve UK ‘regions’.

Northern Ireland topped the table with growth of -2.9% whilst UK growth over the same period was -7.5%. The West Midlands was bottom, posting growth of -11.3%.

In the same report, the ONS’s figures for the standalone quarter to September 2020 showed the NW post growth of 19.3% compared with -19.4% in April to June 2020.

This placed the NW third (previous ranking ninth) out of the twelve UK ‘regions’. The South West was top with quarterly growth of 19.9% whilst London was bottom, posting growth of 13.3%; UK growth was 16.9%.

In this period, the NW’s best sector was accommodation at 280% compared with agriculture at -1.3%. Production, Construction and Services were 29%, 33% and 17%.

Labour

Data from the ONS showed the Job Retention Scheme continued to mitigate unemployment across the UK. Unemployment in the region was up 4,000 lower at 179,000 between January and March; the uplift of 0.1% took the rate to 5%. At 6.8% London was the highest; the South East had the lowest rate of 3.4%, with the UK rate at 4.8%.

The South East had the highest employment rate at 78.5%, this compared with 69.1% in Northern Ireland and 73.5% in the NW where 3.4m are employed; the UK rate was 75.2%.

Public sector employment in the NW increased by 2.6% to 633,000, which was 18.4% of the workforce. At 25.9% Northern Ireland had the highest level of public sector employment which compared to 14.5% in London which was the lowest.

In December, average earnings in the NW grew to £623 per week. London had the highest average earnings of £871 and the lowest average earnings of £584 were recorded in the North East and the East Midlands.

Earnings in Scotland increased the most in the UK by £37 per week whereas the biggest drop in wages was £50 in the East Midlands. The rate of annual pay growth was 4.0% for total pay and 4.6% for regular pay. In real terms, total pay is growing at a faster rate than inflation at 3.1%, with regular pay growth at 3.6%. Public sector pay grew at 5.6% compared with 3.7% in the private sector.

The public sector saw the highest estimated growth in total pay. All sectors saw positive growth, although construction (1.2%) and manufacturing (1.9%) had smaller growth than the other sectors. This is an improvement on the growth rates in April to June 2020, the three-month period with the biggest falls in average pay, when all sectors except for the public sector had negative growth rates.

Housing

The NW’s average property price increased by 1.2% in March 2021 to £187,924. The uplift took the annual increase to 12.8%. In comparison, UK prices grew by 1.8% to £256,405 during March, an annual growth rate of 10.2%.

The first lockdown sees the region’s economy contract by 21% but North West house prices accelerate the most in the UK

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A nowcast for the NW for the 12 months ended December 2020, published by the Economic Statistic Centre of Excellence (‘ESCoE’), has estimated that the NW economy contracted by 10.2%.

This ranked the NW fifth in the UK. Over the same period the East Midlands was ‘best’ with a fall of 8.9%, with London’s 12.9% contraction the ‘worst’.

ESCoE also gave estimates of regional growth over a longer period. Over the last five years, London, the East of England and the West Midlands have grown relative to the other parts of the UK despite experiencing some of the largest declines in activity in 2020.

At the bottom of the table, the North East of England is an outlier in terms of weak economic performance and the devolved administrations have also posted below average results. The NW was ranked fifth.

ESCoE is a partnership of research institutions and the Office for National Statistics (‘ONS’) and has highlighted that during these unprecedented times, with differing lockdowns, there is no historical data that their model can use to fully understand how the pandemic will impact regional economies. Consequently the partnership emphasises the uncertainties that exist with their nowcast at this time.

ONS GDP to June 2020

Official ONS figures for an earlier period which reflects the full effect of the first lockdown show the region’s performance relative to other parts of the UK.

These stats are for the period six months before ESCoE’s estimates shown above and compare GDP in the quarter ended June 2020 with the same quarter a year earlier. These showed that NW growth was -21% compared with -2.4% the previous quarter. This placed the NW fourth (previous ranking also fourth) out of the twelve UK ‘regions’.

London topped the table with growth of -16.3% whilst UK growth over the same period was -20.7%. The West Midlands was bottom, posting growth of -24.7%.

In the same report, the ONS’s figures for the standalone quarter to June 2020 showed the NW post growth of -20.3% compared with -2% in January to March 2020.

This placed the NW ninth (previous ranking third) out of the twelve UK ‘regions’. Northern Ireland was top with quarterly growth of -13.6% whilst the West Midlands was bottom, posting growth of -21%. UK growth was -18.8%.

In this period, the NW’s best sector was public administration at -3.3% whilst accommodation fell by -76.5%. Production, Construction and Services were -23.9%, -39.1% and -18.1%.

Labour

Data from the ONS showed the Job Retention Scheme continued to mitigate unemployment across the UK. Unemployment in the region was 7,000 higher at 174,000 between October and December; the uplift of 0.2% took the rate to 4.8%. At 7% London was the highest; Northern Ireland had the lowest rate of 3.6%, with the UK rate at 5.1%.

The South East had the highest employment rate at 78.6%, this compared with 69.4% in Northern Ireland and 73.8% in the NW where 3.3m are employed; the UK rate was 75%.

Public sector employment in the NW increased by 2.1% to 629,000, which was 18.2% of the workforce. At 25.3% Northern Ireland had the highest level of public sector employment which compared to 14.3% in London which was the lowest.

In December, average earnings in the NW fell to £613 per week. London had the highest average earnings of £862 and the lowest average earnings of £555 were recorded in North East.

Earnings in Wales increased the most in the UK by £44 per week whereas the biggest drop in wages was £27 in Yorkshire and the Humber. The rate of annual pay growth was 4.7% for total pay and 4.1% for regular pay. In real terms, total pay is growing at a faster rate than inflation at 3.8%, with regular pay growth at 3.3%.

The finance and business services sector saw the highest estimated growth in total pay, at 6.8%. All sectors saw positive growth, although construction (1.9%) and manufacturing (1.5%) had smaller growth than the other sectors. This is an improvement on the growth rates in April to June 2020, the three-month period with the biggest falls in average pay, when all these sectors except for the public sector had negative growth rates. Public sector pay growth is now 4.3%.

Housing

The NW’s average property price increased by 2.5% in December 2020 to £183,727. The uplift took the annual increase to 11.2%, the highest in the UK. In comparison, UK prices grew by 1.2% to £251,500 during September, an annual growth rate of 8.5%.

The NW economy falls by 14% following lockdown with mining bucking the trend

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A nowcast for the NW for the 12 months ended September 2020 on a rolling 4 quarter basis, published by the Economic Statistic Centre of Excellence (‘ESCoE’), has estimated that the NW economy contracted by 7.9%.

This ranked the NW fifth in the UK and suggests the regional economy has so far coped ‘reasonably’ with the pandemic relative to the other eleven UK ‘regions’ on this metric. Over the same period the North East was ‘best’ with a fall of 6.5%, with Wales’s 11.4% contraction the ‘worst’; the UK decline according to these figures was c8%.

However, the total percentage change in the NW’s GDP relative to the end of 2019 is about -14%. This compares with -8% across the UK and about -16% in the North East.

ESCoE is a partnership of research institutions and the Office for National Statistics (‘ONS’) and has highlighted that during these unprecedented times, with differing lockdowns, there is no historical data that their model can use to fully understand how the pandemic will impact regional economies. Consequently the partnership emphasises the uncertainties that exist with their nowcast at this time.

ONS GDP to March 2020

Official ONS figures for an earlier period which reflects the start of the Covid 19 turmoil show the region’s performance relative to other parts of the UK.

These stats are for the period six months before ESCoE’s estimates shown above and compare GDP in the quarter ended March 2020 with the same quarter a year earlier. These showed that NW growth was -2.4% compared with -0.4% the previous quarter. This placed the NW fourth (previous ranking seventh) out of the twelve UK ‘regions’.

London topped the table with growth of 1.5% whilst UK growth over the same period was -2.2%. The West Midlands was the worst performer and grew by -5.3%. London was the only region to show positive growth.

In the same report, the ONS’s figures for the standalone quarter to March 2020 showed the NW post growth of -2.0% compared with +0.5% in October to December 2019.

This placed the NW third (previous ranking second) out of the twelve UK ‘regions’. No region showed positive growth. London was top with quarterly growth of -1.5% whilst Northern Ireland was bottom, posting growth of -4.5%.

In this period, the NW’s best sector was mining with growth of 5.4% but education fell by 15.3%. Production, Construction and Services were +2.2%, -3.2% and -2.9%.

Labour

Data from the ONS showed the Job Retention Scheme continued to depress unemployment across the UK. Unemployment in the region was 33,000 higher at 167,000 between July and September; the uplift of 0.9% took the rate to 4.6%. At 6.7% the North East was the highest; Northern Ireland had the lowest rate of 3.6%, with the UK rate at 4.8%.

The South East had the highest employment rate at 78.3%, this compared with 70.5% in Northern Ireland and 74.7% in the NW where 3.5m are employed; the UK rate was 75.3%.

Housing

The NW’s average property price increased by 1.2% in September 2020 to £176,976. The uplift took the annual increase to 6.0%. In comparison, UK prices grew by 1.7% to £244,513 during September, an annual growth rate of 4.7%.

The North West economy contracts by 5.2% following lockdown but pre-pandemic data shows an earlier strong expansion and the Job Retention Scheme helps push regional unemployment down

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A nowcast for the NW for the 12 months ended June 2020 on a rolling 4 quarter basis, published by the Economic Statistic Centre of Excellence (‘ESCoE’), has estimated that the NW economy contracted by 5.2%.

This ranked the NW third in the UK and suggests the regional economy has so far coped ‘better’ with the pandemic relative to the other eleven UK ‘regions’. Over the same period the East Midlands was ‘best’ with a fall of 4.5%, with London’s 7.4% contraction the ‘worst’; the UK decline according to the Office for National Statistics (‘ONS’) figures was 5.3%.

ESCoE is a partnership of research institutions and the ONS and has highlighted that during these unprecedented times, there is no historical data that their model can use to fully understand how the pandemic will impact regional economies. Consequently the partnership emphasises the uncertainties that exist with their nowcast at this time.

ONS GDP to December 2019

Official ONS figures for an earlier period which reflects Brexit uncertainty rather than Covid 19 turmoil, show the region moving up places relative to other parts of the UK. Following its first publication of quarterly GDP estimates for the regions in September 2019, the ONS has now published its fifth estimate for the NW, the other eight English regions, and Wales.  GDP figures have been available for the UK since the 1940s, for Scotland since 2002 and Northern Ireland since 2013.

These stats are for the period six months before ESCoE’s estimates shown above and compare GDP in the quarter ended December 2019 with the same quarter a year earlier. These showed the NW contracted by 0.4%, an improvement on -1.3% the previous quarter. This placed the NW seventh (previous ranking eleventh) out of the twelve UK ‘regions’.

London topped the table with growth of 5% whilst UK growth over the same period was 0.9%. The West Midlands was again the worst performer and contracted by 2.7%. The North East, Wales, East Midlands and the North West were the other ‘regions’ in the UK to suffer a decline.

In the same report, the ONS’s figures highlighted that the standalone quarter to December 2019 also showed a much improving picture in the NW with the data far better than the previous quarter. The NW economy grew by 0.5% in October to December 2019, following -0.5% in July to September 2019.

This placed the NW second (previous ranking last) out of the twelve UK ‘regions. The NW was one of five regions of the UK that saw their economies grow but overall UK growth was flat.

The SW was top with quarterly growth of 0.8% whilst the North East was bottom, posting a drop of 1.3%.

In this period, the NW’s best sector was manufacturing with growth of 4.6% but education fell by 4%. Overall production was +4.1%, construction +0.1%, services -0.3% and agriculture -0.2%.

Labour

Data from the ONS showed the Job Retention Scheme continued to depress unemployment across the UK. Unemployment in the region was 20,000 lower at 128,000 between April and June; the drop of 0.5% took the rate to 3.5%. At 5.2% the North East was the highest; Northern Ireland had the lowest rate of 2.5%, with the UK rate at 3.9%.

The South East had the highest employment rate at 79.7%, this compared with 71.7% in Northern Ireland and 76.2% in the NW where 3.5m are employed; the UK rate was 76.4%.

Housing

The NW’s average property price fell by 0.2% in April 2020 to £167,809. The drop took the annual uplift to 3.4%. In comparison, UK prices dropped by 0.2% to £234,612 during April, an annual growth rate of 2.6%.

The ONS data is based on completed housing transactions. Typically, a house purchase can take 6 to 8 weeks to reach completion so the price data in the April figures will therefore reflect those completions that occurred before lockdown.

This is the first publication of the UK HPI since it was suspended in May 2020. The UK Property Transactions Statistics for April 2020 showed that that between March 2020 and April 2020, transactions decreased by 55.5%.

NW clean energy projects, incomes in Cheshire East striking, Lancaster and Wyre growth disappoints

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Plans for two nuclear power plants at Moorside, adjacent to the Sellafield reprocessing plant, have been submitted by an EDF-led consortium. The firm wants to build two pressurised water reactors of the same type as Hinkley Point C in Somerset; 25,000 jobs could be created across the region.

In Greater Manchester, one of the world’s first commercial liquid air batteries will be built after being awarded a £10m government grant.

The CryoBattery facility in Carrington will store spare green energy and could power up to 200,000 homes. The technology stores compressed air in huge containers which is used to generate electricity.

Construction of the facility is expected to start later this year and enter commercial operation in 2022. The new plant will create up to 200 new jobs.

In Lancashire, the leaders of all 15 local authorities have voted for an elected mayor to head up a combined county wide authority. The deal would hand Lancashire more powers and funds of at least £30m a year for 30 years. Mayors were elected in the neighbouring regions of Greater Manchester and the Liverpool City region, as well as other English regions, in 2017.

Also in the county, Blackpool Illuminations will be extended to 3 January to help the town’s Covid-19-stricken tourism trade. The lightshow’s switch-on this year will be live-streamed on 4 September, the first time in more than 70 years the resort’s switch-on event will not be held on the seafront.

The Stats

This month the ONS published regional household disposal income figures for 2018. Total gross disposable household income (GDHI) in the UK in 2018 was £1.4bn. Of that, 86.3% was in England, 7.6% was in Scotland, 3.8% was in Wales and 2.3% was in Northern Ireland.

The average UK income per head after direct and indirect taxes were taken off was £21,109.  England was the only country above the UK average at £21,609 but growth in incomes was best in Scotland and Northern Ireland at 5.1% and 4.7%. England’s growth was the same as the UK at 4.6%; Wales grew by 4.4%.

At a regional level, London had the highest GDHI per head where, on average, each person had £29,362 available to spend or save; the North East had the lowest at £16,995 which compares with a UK average of £21,109. The NW was £18,362.

At a local level, Kensington and Chelsea and Hammersmith and Fulham district had the highest GDHI per head at £63,286 with Nottingham the lowest at £13,138. All the top 10 local areas were in London or the South East with the bottom 10 within the North West, Yorkshire and The Humber, East Midlands, West Midlands, and Northern Ireland regions.

The wealthiest part of the North West was Cheshire East with incomes of £24,524. This ranked the area 28th out of 179 districts of the UK, the highest ranking outside London and the SE of England. The poorest area of the region was Blackburn with Darwen at £13,741, just beating Manchester at £14,864. Blackburn was ranked 177th in the UK, only above Nottingham and Leicester.

In terms of regional growth, the largest increase was in London at 5.2% with the smallest in the East Midlands at 3.6%. NW growth was 4.4%.

At the local level, Kensington & Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham was again best in the UK with growth of 7.6% whereas Luton was the worst and only grew by 0.9%.

In the NW, income growth in Greater Manchester South West was top at 6.2% with Manchester second at 5.5% Blackburn beat the UK average with growth of 5% and was ranked 55th out of 179.  Lancaster and Wyre was the worst regional performer with growth of 2.6%, a ranking of 165th.

Labour

More data from the ONS showed unemployment in the region was 12,000 lower at 148,000 between February and April; the drop of 0.3% took the rate to 4.1%. At 5.2% the North East was the highest; Northern Ireland had the lowest rate of 2.3%, with the UK rate at 3.9%.

The South East had the highest employment rate at 79.5% which compared with 75.9% in the NW where 3.5m are employed; the UK rate was 76.4%.

Public sector employment in the NW increased by 1.8% in March to 623,000, which was 17.6% of the workforce. At 25.2% Northern Ireland had the highest level of public sector employment which compared to 13.9% in London which was the lowest.

In March, average earnings in the NW dropped by £11 to £595 per week. London had the highest average earnings of £847 and the lowest average earnings of £537 were recorded in Northern Ireland.

Earnings in the NE increased the most in the UK by £60 per week whereas wages dropped the most by £37 in Scotland.

In the UK overall, average earnings grew by 1.7% or by 0.4% after inflation. If bonuses are included real pay fell by 0.4%.

The public sector saw the highest estimated growth, at 3.2% for regular pay, while negative growth was seen in the construction sector, estimated at negative 1.8%. Both the wholesaling, retailing, hotels and restaurants sector and the manufacturing sector saw very weak growth at 0.1% for regular pay.

Housing

Estimates of private sector rents for the year to March 2020 were published by the ONS this month.

The median monthly rent was an all time high of £700 in England between 1 April 2019 and 31 March 2020. London had the highest median monthly rent at £1,425 with the North East the lowest at £495. Within local authorities the difference in monthly rental price between the most and least expensive was nearly £2,100.

In the NW rental prices ranged from £495 to £725 with £525 the median.

Data for the 12 months to May 2020 showed private rental prices paid by tenants in the UK rose by 1.5%, unchanged from the previous month. Rental prices grew by 1.5% in England, 1.2% in Wales and 0.6% in Scotland.

Rental prices increased the most in the South West, up by 2.5%, with the lowest price growth in the North East at 0.8%, followed by the North West, which increased by 1.0%.

According to the ONS the South West is also projected to have the highest regional rate of growth in households over the next ten years, at 9%. This compares with 5.7% in the NW and 4.3% in the NE (the lowest).

Overall the number of households in England is projected to increase by 1.6m (7.1%) from 23.2m in 2018 to 24.8m in 2028. The NW is forecast to have 3.3m households by 2028.

Given the closure of the housing market following lockdown the ONS has suspended its property price index until further notice.

The North West economy shrinks more slowly than other regions at -1.5% and pre-pandemic data shows the region also contracted earlier

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A quarterly nowcast for the NW for the 3 months ended March 2020 which captures the start of lockdown, published by the Economic Statistic Centre of Excellence (‘ESCoE’), has estimated that the NW economy contracted by 1.5%. ESCoE is a partnership of research institutions and the Office for National Statistics (‘ONS’).

This ranked the NW joint third and suggests the regional economy has coped better with the pandemic relative to the other eleven ‘regions’ of the UK. Over the same period the 1% fall in the East Midlands was ‘best’ with Northern Ireland’s 3.9% contraction the ‘worst’; the UK decline was 2%.

For the 12 months ended March 2020 on a rolling 4 quarter basis, ESCoE has estimated that NW growth has dropped from 2% to 1.4%.

This ranked the NW second (previous ranking third) and suggests the region has marginally improved its position relative to the other eleven parts of the UK. Over the same period UK growth was 0.5%; growth in London (ranked first) was 1.8%; and growth in the East Midlands (ranked twelfth) was -0.6%.

ONS GDP to September 2019

Official ONS figures for an earlier period which reflect Brexit uncertainty rather than Covid 19 turmoil are, relatively, not so good for the region. Following its first publication of quarterly GDP estimates for the regions in September 2019, the ONS has now published its fourth estimate for the North West, the other eight English regions, and Wales.  GDP figures have been available for the UK since the 1940s, for Scotland since 2002 and Northern Ireland since 2013.

These stats are for the period six months before ESCoE’s estimates shown above and compare GDP in the quarter ended September 2019 with the same quarter a year earlier. These more volatile figures showed the NW contracted by 1.3%, down from -0.3% the previous quarter. This placed the NW eleventh (previous ranking tenth) out of the twelve UK ‘regions’.

London topped the table with growth of 5% whilst UK growth over the same period was 1.2%. The West Midlands was the worst performer and contracted by 1.5%, one of three ‘regions’ in the UK to suffer a decline.

In the same report, the ONS’s figures also highlighted that the standalone quarter to September 2019 was also poor for the NW but an improvement on the previous quarter. The North West economy contracted by 0.2% in July to September 2019, following a contraction of 1.5% in April to June 2019.

This placed the NW joint ninth (previous ranking eleventh) out of the twelve UK ‘regions. Four regions of the UK saw their economies contract but overall the UK grew by 0.5%.

Again London was top with quarterly growth of 1.4% whilst the East Midlands was the worst performer and contracted by 0.3%.

In this period, the NW’s best sector was water supply/sewerage with growth of 36.1% but manufacturing fell by 6.2%. Overall services grew by 0.6% but production fell by 3.4%, construction by 1.7% and agriculture by 0.1%.

Labour

More largely pre-pandemic data from the ONS showed unemployment in the region was 9,000 lower at 148,000 between January and March; the drop of 0.3% took the rate to 4%. At 5.4% the North East was the highest; Northern Ireland had the lowest rate of 2.4%, with the UK rate at 3.9%.

The South East had the highest employment rate at 80.2% which compared with 76.2% in the NW where 3.6m are employed; the UK rate was 76.6%.

Housing

The NW’s average property price increased over the month by 0.2% to £166,202. The uplift took the annual increase to 3.4%. In comparison, UK prices dropped by 0.2% to £231,855 during March, an annual growth rate of 2.1%.

The ONS data is based on completed housing transactions. Typically, a house purchase can take 6 to 8 weeks to reach completion so the price data feeding into the March figures will therefore reflect those completions that occurred before lockdown.

Given the closure of the housing market following lockdown the ONS has suspended its index until further notice.

The USA the NW’s largest export market but volumes decline, Manchester imports the most services, £2.1bn more than Blackburn

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HMRC has published the latest regional trade figures which show exports and imports for 2019. Given the time period this data reflects Brexit uncertainty rather than Covid 19 turmoil. 

In the year to December 2019, the overall value of UK trade in goods exports increased by 2.1% to £346bn compared with the same period in 2018. The overall value of imports increased by 0.3% to £483bn.

There was a decrease in annual export value in the NW along with five of the 12 UK ‘regions’. NW exports decreased by 2.2% or 615m to £27bn which was 8% of the UK total.

The biggest regional exporter was the SE of England at £46.5bn and Northern Ireland was the smallest at £9bn. The best performer in percentage terms was London which added 17% compared with Yorkshire & the Humber which dropped by 6%

There was a decrease in annual import value in the NW along with five of the 12 UK ‘regions’. NW imports decreased by 2.3% or 894m to £37.9bn which was 8% of the UK total.

The biggest regional importer was the SE at £98bn and Northern Ireland was the smallest at £8bn. In percentage terms London added 12% compared with Scotland which reduced imports by 7%.

The USA was the NW’s largest export market with machinery & transport equipment the best export. Most of the NW’s imported goods came from Germany with machinery & transport equipment the biggest import.

Services

This month the ONS published data on regional services imports for 2017. The biggest component of services imported into the UK was £51bn of travel. This was 28% of the £181bn UK total imports of services.

The NW imported £16.6bn of services value in 2017 of which £5.8bn was travel. The largest importer of services was London at £60bn with Northern Ireland importing £1.6bn.

At a local level, the biggest importer of non-travel services into the UK was Camden and City of London at £14.5bn, almost double the next largest importer which was Westminster at £7.9bn. Of the 167 local areas, The Western Isles of Scotland imported the least amount, £21m, with Anglesey next at £31m.

In the NW, Manchester imported £2.2bn of non-travel services compared with £89m in Blackburn with Darwen.

The data on services exports was released by the ONS last year which showed the NW exporting £19.2bn of services which compared with London at £117bn and Northern Ireland at £2.9bn.

Other data

The ONS has also published the latest regional construction sector data to December 2019 which again reflects Brexit uncertainty rather than Covid 19 turmoil. Compared with the previous quarter all parts of the UK recorded a decline with the NW posting a 2.2% drop to £4.9bn.  The biggest decrease in the UK was 4.6% in the West Midlands; the SE was best with a 0.9% fall. Within this though 5520 new houses were completed in the NW, an increase of 12% on the previous quarter.

More pre-pandemic data from the ONS showed unemployment in the region was 4,000 higher at 158,000 between December and February; the uplift of 0.1% took the rate to 4.3%. Northern Ireland had the lowest rate of 2.5%, the NE the highest at 5.6% with the UK rate at 4%.

The South East had the highest employment rate at 80.1% which compared with 75.6% in the NW where 3.5m are employed; the UK rate was 76.6%.

The NW’s average property price decreased over the month by 0.5% to £163,602. The drop took the annual increase to 0.9%. In comparison, UK prices dropped by 0.6% to £230,332 during February, an annual growth rate of 1.1%.

Addlington and Dudlow’s Green the wealthiest parts of the region with Blackpool South the poorest, Cheshire and Warrington LEP the most productive but the best growth seen in Lancashire

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The ONS has published average household disposal income estimates for England and Wales for 2018. The incomes shown are after tax and housing costs are taken off. The analysis has shown that 87% of local areas had an average household income of between £22,500 and £39,200; within this over a third were between £28,000 and £33,600.

Of the 50 areas with the highest total incomes, 41 were in London, with the lowest incomes more widely spread across England and Wales. The North East, East England, London, and the South East had no local areas in the bottom 50.

The wealthiest area in England and Wales was Mickleover in Derby with incomes of £52,200 and the poorest was Highfield North in Leicester with £12,500. The two areas are 30 miles from each other and ranked 7200 places apart.

The wealthiest areas of the North West were the Addlington area of Cheshire and the Dudlow’s Green of Warrington with incomes of £39,800. This ranked the areas 184th out of the 7,201 districts of the UK recorded. The poorest area of the region was Blackpool South with £13,300. This area was ranked 7,199 out of the 7,201 areas of the UK recorded.

Last month the ONS published analysis which showed that like most regions of the UK, output per hour in the NW is below the UK average. Productivity per hour in the NW was 8.4% below the UK average which ranked the region fifth nationally for 2018. One reason for this is the high levels of hours worked and high productivity in London and the South East which pulls up the UK average so much that all other regions fall below it.  

The ONS has now released data for a longer period and at a subregional level. This gives further insight into the NW’s performance.

First, the 2018 results for the 44 enterprise regions in the UK, which comprise the 38 English local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) and six enterprise regions in Scotland, Wales and the border regions.

Thames Valley Berkshire LEP had the best productivity (in terms of hours) in 2018 at 35% above the UK average, whereas the Black Country LEP at -24% was the worst.

At +6%, the Cheshire and Warrington LEP was one of eight economic regions which beat the UK average and was ranked 5th, all of the NW’s other LEPs recorded productivity below the UK average. Liverpool City region was 19th at 8% below, Lancashire LEP 23rd and Greater Manchester 25th at -11% but the worst regional performer was Cumbria at -14% which ranked it 29th.

In terms of productivity growth between 2010 and 2018, the Coventry and Warwickshire LEP was top with growth of 16%. Twelve economic regions recorded productivity levels lower in 2018 than 2010. The worst performer was the Buckinghamshire Thames Valley LEP which saw productivity drop by 11%.

The NW’s results for productivity growth (rather than overall productivity) were more mixed. With growth of 8.8% Lancashire was the regional star and was ranked 3rd nationally, just beating Cumbria which was ranked fourth with 7.5% growth. Cheshire and Warrington LEP grew by 3.8% and was ranked 15th but the region’s other two LEPs recorded productivity levels lower in 2018 than 2010. Greater Manchester was -0.5% and was ranked 36th which was four places better than Liverpool City region at -3.3%.

On subregions rather then enterprise areas, with the exception of Cheshire East (+8%) and Greater Manchester South West (+0.3%), all of the NW’s subregions recorded productivity below the UK average. Greater Manchester North East had the lowest productivity in the region, 27% below the UK average.

The growth in hours worked between 2010 and 2018 in Greater Manchester was 17%, just beating Cheshire which recorded 16%. In UK terms this level of growth was in the top ten of the country’s 41 subregions. Merseyside grew by 9% and Lancashire by 7% but Cumbria recorded a decline of 3.7%, the only part of the UK to do so.

If the increase in economic output is factored in then the sub regional performances are similar to the geographically associated LEPs. So despite Cumbria recording a decline of 3.7% in hours worked, it was ranked 7th in the UK with growth of c8%.

More data from the ONS showed unemployment in the region was 16,000 higher at 163,000 between November and January; the uplift of 0.4% took the rate to 4.4%. Northern Ireland had the lowest rate of 2.4%, the North East the highest at 6.2%, with the UK rate at 3.9%.

The South East had the highest employment rate at 80% which compared with 75.8% in the NW where 3.5m are employed; the UK rate was 76.5%.

The NW’s average property price decreased by 1.5% to £164,769 during the month which took the annual increase to 2.1%. In comparison, UK prices decreased by 1.1% to £231,185 during January, an annual growth rate of 1.3%.

Take your pick, depending on the period the NW economy ranked third or last in terms of growth, the region’s productivity ranked fifth in the UK despite no growth

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For the 12 months ended December 2019, a nowcast published by the Economic Statistic Centre of Excellence (‘ESCoE’) on a rolling 4 quarter basis, has estimated that NW growth has increased from 1.7% to 2%. ESCoE is a partnership of research institutions and the Office for National Statistics (‘ONS’).

This ranked the NW third (previous ranking also third) and suggests the region has maintained its position relative to the other eleven parts of the UK. Over the same period UK growth was 1.4%; growth in London (ranked first) was 3.3%; and growth in the East Midlands (ranked twelfth) was 0.1%.

Official ONS figures for an earlier period are not so good. Following its first publication of quarterly GDP estimates for the regions in September 2019, the ONS has now published its third estimate for the North West, the other eight English regions, and Wales.  GDP figures have been available for the UK since the 1940s, for Scotland since 2002 and Northern Ireland since 2013.

These figures are for the period six months before ESCoE’s estimates shown above and compare GDP in the quarter ended June 2019 with the same quarter a year earlier.

These more volatile figures showed the NW contracted by 0.7%, down from +1.8% the previous quarter. This placed the NW last (previous ranking sixth) out of the twelve UK ‘regions.’

London topped the table with growth of 4.5% whilst UK growth over the same period was 1.4%. The NW was one of three in the UK to suffer a decline.

In the same report, there was no surprise that the ONS’s figures also highlighted that the standalone quarter to June 2019 was worse for the region than the previous quarter. The North West economy declined by 1.6% in April to June 2019, following growth of 0.8% in January to March 2019.

This placed the NW joint last (previous ranking third) out of the twelve UK ‘regions. Six regions of the UK saw their economies contract as did the UK overall by 0.2%.

In this period, the region’s finance industry grew by 4.0% and was the largest positive contributor to growth whereas water supply; sewerage, waste management and remediation activities fell by 27.6%. In the main, the production sector was the main drag on growth with manufacturing falling by 7.3%.

Overall, the services sector grew by 0.4% but this was weighed down by the production, construction and agriculture sectors which fell by 8.3%, 5.4% and 2.0% respectively. Over the last two years the construction sector has had strong growth.

Productivity

Like most regions of the UK, output per hour in the NW was below the UK average. Productivity in the NW was 8.4% below the average which ranked the region fifth in the UK according to the ONS.

Two regions had productivity above the UK average in 2018, London +31.6% and the South East +9.1%. These regions record high levels of hours worked and their high productivity pulls up the UK average so much that all other regions fall below it. Wales was furthest off the average at -17.2%.

The NW was also ranked fifth in terms of output per job. The region’s 15.8% below the UK average compared with London at 40.5% above.

In terms of growth in output per hour, six regions of the UK expanded. The NW was ranked seventh as output per hour contracted by 0.4%. At 2.3%, growth was fastest in Scotland and the biggest contraction was in Yorkshire and the Humber at 2.5%. UK growth was 0.5%.

In terms of sectors, productivity in arts, entertainment and recreation was better than expected but finance and insurance disappointed.

On average, in 2018 the UK economy produced about £35 of value for each hour worked, with finance and insurance top at c£69 per hour compared with accommodation and service activities productivity at c£17 per hour.

Labour

More data from the ONS showed unemployment in the region increased by 4,000 to 157,000 between October and December; the slight uplift took the rate to 4.2%. Northern Ireland had the lowest rate of 2.4%, with the UK rate at 3.8%. The highest rate was 6.1% which was recorded in the North East.

The South West had the highest employment rate at 80.1% which compared with 75.9% in the NW where 3.5m are employed; the UK rate was 76.5%.

In December, average earnings in the NW were unchanged at £595 per week. London had the highest average earnings of £805 and the lowest average earnings of £530 were recorded in the NE. The NW was ranked sixth.

In the UK overall, average earnings grew by 2.9% or by 1.4% after inflation. After adjusting for inflation, regular pay is now at its highest level since 2000, whereas total pay (which includes bonuses) is still 3.7% below its peak in February 2008.

Housing

The NW’s average property price decreased by 0.6% over the month to £166,003, the drop took the annual increase to 2%. In comparison, UK prices increased by 0.3% to £234,742 during September, an annual growth rate of 2.2%.