The East of England economy shrinks by 1.8% following lockdown and pre-pandemic data also shows an earlier small contraction

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A quarterly nowcast for the EE 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 EE economy contracted by 1.8%. ESCoE is a partnership of research institutions and the Office for National Statistics (‘ONS’).

This ranked the EE sixth and suggests the regional economy has so far coped averagely with the pandemic relative to the other eleven ‘regions’ of the UK. Over the same period the East Midlands was ‘best’ with a fall of 1% 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 EE growth has dropped from 2.1% to 1.4%.

This ranked the EE second (previous ranking also second) and suggests the region has held 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, show the region also holding its position 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 fourth estimate for the EE, 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 showed the EE contracted by 0.1%, an improvement on -0.5% the previous quarter. This placed the EE tenth (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 1.2%. The West Midlands was the worst performer and contracted by 1.5%. The East of England and the NW were the other two ‘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 showed an improving picture in the EE with the data better than the previous quarter. The EE economy grew by 0.9% in July to September 2019, following -0.4% in April to June 2019.

This placed the EE fourth (previous ranking seventh) out of the twelve UK ‘regions’. Four regions of the UK that saw their economies contract but overall the UK grew by 0.5%.

Again London was top with quarterly growth of 1.4% whilst the North West, South East and Northern Ireland all contracted by 0.2% with the East Midlands posting a drop of 0.3%.

In this period, the EE’s best sector was water supply with growth of 12.1% but the wholesale/retail sector fell by 4%. Overall services grew by 0.5% and production by 4.2% but construction fell by 0.2% and agriculture by 0.5%.

Labour

More largely pre-pandemic data from the ONS showed unemployment in the region was 12,000 higher at 120,000 between January and March; the uplift of 0.4% took the rate to 3.7%. 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 78% in the EE where 3.1m are employed; the UK rate was 76.6%.

Housing

The EE’s average property price was unchanged over the month at £291,254. This meant the annual increase was 1.6%. 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 in 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.

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