The State of Britain

NE economic growth in 2018 better than 2017, the Sunderland economy the fastest growing in the region, the Tees Valley LEP unable to move the growth dial and NE unemployment a cause for concern

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Following its first publication of quarterly GDP estimates for the regions in September, the ONS has now published its 2018 full year estimate of economic activity by UK country, region and local area using gross domestic product.

The figures showed the NE economy grew by 0.9% in 2018, up from the 2017 growth rate of 0.5%. This placed the NE eighth (2017 ranking 12th) out of the twelve UK ‘regions.’

The UK and England growth rate in 2018 was 1.4%. Growth in Wales was 1.3%, Scotland grew by 0.9% and the Northern Ireland economy shrank by 0.5%.

London topped the 2018 table with growth of 2.0% whilst Northern Ireland was at the bottom.

Within the region, the Sunderland economy grew the fastest at 4.9%, followed by South Tyneside at 3.3% and Tyneside at 2.3%. Across the UK, the highest annual growth of sub national areas was in Falkirk at 10.5%.

Four areas of the region saw their GDP decline in 2018. The worst performer was Darlington at -6.3% followed by Hartlepool and Stockton at -4.0% and Northumberland at -2.5%. In UK terms, the lowest annual growth of sub national areas was in Mid and East Antrim at -10.1%.

GDP per head growth of 4.9% to £29,635 was seen in Sunderland which was the highest in the NE. GDP per head fell by 6.4% in Darlington to £28,866 but the lowest in the region was Northumberland at £18,978.

In terms of UK extremes, GDP per head was £395,309 in Camden and the City of London and £15,034 in Ards and North Down. These figures are a guide and are influenced by commuter flows.

In 2018, key drivers of the North East economy were arts and entertainment at 7%, wholesale and retail 5% and information and communication at 3%. Those areas that did not perform well were accommodation and food services down by 3%, education declined 2% as did water supply and services. Overall the services sector grew by 1.3% and production by 0.2% with construction declining by 2.1%.

The 2018 performance of the region’s two enterprise partnerships was also highlighted by the ONS. Of the UK’s 45 development bodies, the North East LEP was ranked 14th (2017 ranking 38th) with growth of 2.0%, but the Tees Valley LEP slipped from 42nd in 2017 to bottom in 2018 as the economy declined by 2.1%.

More data from the ONS showed unemployment in the NE increased by 15,000 to 78,000 between August and October 2019; the jump of 1.1% took the overall rate to 6.1%. Northern Ireland had the lowest rate at 2.3% with the UK rate at 3.8%. The NE rate of 6.1% is a UK outlier with London the next nearest at 4.5%

The South West had the highest employment rate at 80.8% which compared with 70.9% in the NE. UK employment was estimated at 76.2%.

NE average property prices fell by a substantial 2.3% during October 2019 to £129,360, the biggest drop in the UK, which took the annual fall to 1.1%. Only London recorded a bigger annual drop of 1.6%. In comparison, UK prices fell by 0.7% to £232,944, an annual growth rate of 0.7%.