The State of Britain

The East of England third in the 2018 growth league, Peterborough has the second fastest growing local economy in the UK, Thurrock declines and a mixed performance from the region’s LEPs

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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 EE economy grew by 1.7% in 2018, down from the 2017 growth rate of 3.8%. This placed the EE third (2017 ranking first) 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 Peterborough economy grew the fastest at 9%, followed by Bedford at 6.6% and Heart of Essex at 4.3%. In UK terms, the highest annual growth of the 179 local areas was in Falkirk at 10.5%, Peterborough was ranked second.

Four areas of the region saw their GDP decline in 2018. Thurrock recorded the biggest drop at 6.5%, followed by Breckland and South Norfolk at 2.7% and Essex Haven Gateway at 2%. In UK terms, the lowest annual growth of subnational areas was in Mid and East Antrim at -10.1%.

GDP per head growth of 7.8% to £36,014 was seen in Peterborough although at £37,499 Hertfordshire topped the region. GDP per head fell by 7.6% in Thurrock to £27,526 but despite growing by 1.0%, Southend recorded the regional lowest at £18,902.

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 EE economy were professional/scientific /technical activities at 6%, arts/entertainment/recreation at 5% and transportation /storage up by 3%. Those areas that did not perform well were agriculture which dropped by 6%, mining down by 4% and electricity/gas supply down by 2%. Overall the services sector grew by 2.1%, construction by 1.4% and production by 0.7%.

The 2018 performance of the region’s five enterprise partnerships was also highlighted by the ONS. Of the UK’s 45 development bodies, Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP was ranked 1st in the UK with growth of 2.8%, Cambridge and Peterborough was ranked 3rd in the UK (2017 ranking 8th) with growth of 2.4%. Semlep moved up the rankings from 30th to 8th with growth of 2.1%, but with slower growth, the region’s other three LEPs fell down the rankings, with Hertfordshire slipping slightly from 1st to 9th, New Anglia moving from 25th to 36th and the South East LEP (which includes Essex) dropping 21 places to 34th.

More data from the ONS showed unemployment in the EE increased by 3,000 to 102,000 between August and October 2019; the increase of 0.1% took the overall rate to 3.2%. Northern Ireland had the lowest rate at 2.3% 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 80.8% which compared with 78.2% in the EE. UK employment was estimated at 76.2%.

EE average property prices fell by 0.1% during October 2019 to £293,928, which took annual growth to 0.3%. In comparison, UK prices fell by 0.7% to £232,944, an annual growth rate of 0.7%.