The State of Britain

The West Midlands jointly tops the 2018 growth league, Solihull the regional star, Walsall declines and the Birmingham LEP ranked 1st 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 WM economy grew by 2.0% in 2018, down from the 2017 growth rate of 2.6%. This placed WM second (2017 ranking also second) 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 Solihull economy grew the fastest at 6.7%, followed by Warwickshire at 3.2% and Stoke at 2.3%. Across the UK, the highest annual growth of the 179 local areas was in Falkirk at 10.5%.

Only one area of the region saw its GDP decline in 2018. This was Walsall at -8.0%. In UK terms, the lowest annual growth of subnational areas was in Mid and East Antrim at -10.1%.

GDP per head growth of 5.0% to £49,328 was seen in Solihull which was top in the region. Indeed Solihull, at ninth, was one of two areas outside of London and the SE to feature in the UK top 10. GDP per head fell by 9.6% in Walsall to £19,412.

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 WM economy were information/communication at 7% and administrative/support services and education both at 4%. Those areas that did not perform well were agriculture which dropped by 5%, electricity/gas supply down by 2% and accommodation/food service fell by 1%. Overall the services sector grew by 2.9% but construction fell by 0.4% and production fell by 0.3%.

The 2018 performance of the region’s six enterprise partnerships was also highlighted by the ONS. Of the UK’s 45 development bodies, Greater Birmingham and Solihull was ranked 1st in the UK (2017 ranking 27th) with growth of 2.8%. Stoke moved up the rankings from 33rd to 10th with growth of 2.1% and Coventry & Warwickshire moved up two places to 12th. Worcestershire moved up one place to 15th, but with slower growth, the region’s other two LEPs fell down the rankings, with the Black Country dropping from tenth to 31st and The Marches moving from fourth to 32nd.

More data from the ONS showed unemployment in the WM increased by 10,000 to 132,000 between August and October 2019; the increase of 0.3% took the overall rate to 4.5%, the second highest in the UK. 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 75.1% in the WM. UK employment was estimated at 76.2%.

WM average property prices fell by 1.6% during October 2019 to £198,345, which took annual growth to 0.2%. In comparison, UK prices fell by 0.7% to £232,944, an annual growth rate of 0.7%.