The State of Britain

The region records below average growth in 2018, Bath, North East Somerset and South Gloucestershire the regional stars, Torbay declines and has the third lowest GDP per head in the UK, the Gloucestershire LEP ranked second in the UK

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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 SW economy grew by 0.9% in 2018, down from the 2017 growth rate of 2.5%. This placed the SW tenth (2017 ranking third) 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 Bath, North East Somerset and South Gloucestershire economy grew the fastest at 6.2%, followed by Gloucestershire at 2.4% and Somerset at 1.4%. In UK terms, the highest annual growth of the 179 local areas was in Falkirk at 10.5%.

Five areas of the region saw their GDP decline in 2018. Torbay recorded the biggest drop at 6.6%, followed by Bristol at 3% and Swindon at 1.3%. Across the UK, 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 £33,273 was seen in Bath, North East Somerset and South Gloucestershire although at £46,146 Swindon topped the region. GDP per head fell by 7.0% in Torbay to £17,409 which was the third lowest in the UK.

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 SW economy were professional/scientific/technical activities at 3.5%, information/communication at 2.8% and transport and wholesale/retail up by 2.6%. Those areas that did not perform well were mining which dropped by 13%, agriculture was down by 5% and water supply services down by 3%. Overall the services sector grew by 1.6% whilst construction fell by 1.6% and production by 1.3%.

The 2018 performance of the region’s five enterprise partnerships was also highlighted by the ONS. Of the UK’s 45 development bodies, Gloucestershire was ranked second in the UK (2017 ranking third) with growth of 2.4%. West of England moved up the rankings from 31st to 6th with growth of 2.2%. With slower or negative growth, the region’s other three LEPs fell down the rankings, with the Swindon LEP slipping from 37th to 44th, Heart of the South West moving from 20th to 26th and Cornwall dropping 29 places to 33rd.

More data from the ONS showed unemployment in the SW increased by 8,000 to 76,000 between August and October 2019; the increase of 0.3% took the overall rate to 2.6%. 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 76.2% in the UK.

SW average property prices fell by 0.8% during October 2019 to £258,372, which took annual growth to 0.6%. In comparison, UK prices fell by 0.7% to £232,944, an annual growth rate of 0.7%.