The State of Britain

NE exports increase, Tyneside imports the most services in the NE and the region’s unemployment rate remains a UK outlier, despite a big improvement

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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 an increase in annual export value in the NE along with five of the 12 UK ‘regions’. NE exports increased by 0.7% or 87m to £13.3bn which was 4% 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 an increase in annual import value in the NE along with five of the 12 UK ‘regions’. NE imports increased by 3.1% or 437m to £14.4bn which was 3% of the UK total.

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


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 NE imported £4.8bn of services value in 2017 of which £1.7bn 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 NE, Tyneside imported £1.3bn of non-travel services compared with £168m in Northumberland.

The data on services exports was released by the ONS last year which showed the NE exporting £5.5bn 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 NE posting a 4.5% drop to £1.7bn.  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 240 new houses were completed in the NE, an increase of 12% on the previous quarter.

More pre-pandemic data from the ONS showed unemployment in the region was 4,000 lower at 76,000 between December and February; the drop of 0.6% took the rate to 5.6%, a UK outlier, at 4.8% the West Midlands was next highest. Northern Ireland had the lowest rate of 2.5%, with the UK rate at 4%.

The South East had the highest employment rate at 80.1% which compared with 72.5% in the NE where 1.2m are employed; the UK rate was 76.6%.

The NE’s average property price decreased over the month by 1.3% to £125,053. The drop took the annual increase to 0.4%. In comparison, UK prices dropped by 0.6% to £230,332 during February, an annual growth rate of 1.1%.