The State of Britain

London top of the ‘regional’ leagues but Scotland takes the productivity growth crown, and regional economies more exposed to manufacturing suffer Brexit buffeting

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First, the ESCoE nowcast for the 12 months ended December 2019 on a rolling 4 quarter basis. This flagged UK growth at 1.4%, growth in London ranked top at 3.3% and growth in the East Midlands ranked last at 0.1%.

But official ONS figures for an earlier period showed the East Midlands faring better. 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.

According to these more volatile figures, the East Midlands economy grew by 1.8%, down from 2% growth which placed the East Midlands second out of the twelve UK ‘regions.’ Again London topped the table with growth of 4.5% whilst UK growth over the same period was 1.4%. On these stats the North West economy was the worst performer and contracted by 0.7%, one of three regions 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 North West than the previous quarter. The North West economy declined by 1.6% in April to June 2019 placing the North West joint last (with the West Midlands) out of the twelve UK ‘regions.

On these figures six regions of the UK saw their economies contract as did the UK overall by 0.2%. At 1% London grew the most.

ONS productivity per hour figures had two regions 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%.

In terms of output per job, London was a bigger outlier, at 40.5% above the average. Again Wales was furthest off the average at -18.2%.

On productivity growth in output per hour, six regions of the UK expanded. At 2.3%, growth was fastest in Scotland and the biggest contraction was in Yorkshire and the Humber at 2.5%. UK growth and growth in London were both 0.5%.

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.

Also ONS earnings figures showed UK average earnings grew by 2.9% or by 1.4% after inflation. London had the highest average earnings of £805 and the lowest average earnings of £530 were recorded in the North East.

UK stats

UK GDP showed no growth in the three months to December although there was growth of 0.3% in the month itself. Over the quarter, construction performed well and was up by 1.5% but production fell by 0.8% and services grew by 0.1%. Annual growth was 1.1%.

GDP rose by 0.1% in both the euro area and the EU28 during the fourth quarter of 2019, according to Eurostat. Annually GDP rose by 0.9% in the euro area and by 1.1% in the EU28.

Key European economies remain sluggish; over the quarter Germany was at a standstill and France contracted by 0.1%, with Italy shrinking by 0.3%. Annually Germany grew by 0.5% and France by 0.8% with no growth in Italy.

The UK labour market was largely unchanged, with the level of employment increasing to a record high of 32.93m and the level of unemployment decreasing to 1.29m or 3.8%.

The euro area unemployment rate was 7.4% in December 2019, with the EU28 rate at 6.2%. The lowest unemployment rate in December 2019 was 2% in the Czech Republic and the highest was 16.6% in Greece.

UK inflation rate was 1.8% in January 2019, up from 1.4% in December. Key downward contributions came from furniture and furnishings, in particular settees and double beds, with the biggest risers electricity prices, fuels and lubricants, clothing and airfares.

Euro area annual inflation was 1.4% in January, up from 1.3% in December. European Union annual inflation was 1.7% in January 2020, up from 1.6% in December. A year earlier, the Euro area rate was 1.5%.

The UK public sector surplus in January was £9.8bn, £2.1bn less than in January 2019. Debt at the end of January 2020 was £1,798bn, 79.6% of GDP, a decrease of 0.7% on January 2019.