The West Midlands’s economy hit the hardest by the first Lockdown

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Official ONS figures which reflect the economy opening up after the first lockdown show the region’s performance relative to other parts of the UK.

These stats compare GDP in the quarter ended September 2020 with the same quarter a year earlier. These showed that the WM’s growth was -11.3% compared with -24.7% the previous quarter. This placed the WM last (previous ranking also last) out of the twelve UK ‘regions’.

Northern Ireland topped the table with growth of -2.9% whilst UK growth over the same period was -7.5%.

In the same report, the ONS’s figures for the standalone quarter to September 2020 showed the WM post growth of 16.8% compared with -20.2% in April to June 2020.

This placed the WM seventh (previous ranking tenth) out of the twelve UK ‘regions’. The South West was top with quarterly growth of 19.9% whilst London was bottom, posting growth of 13.3%; UK growth was 16.9%.

In this period, the WM’s best sector was accommodation at 244% compared with agriculture at 0%. Production, Construction and Services were 15%, 38% and 16%.

Labour

Data from the ONS showed the Job Retention Scheme continued to mitigate unemployment across the UK. Unemployment in the region was down 11,000 at 169,000 between January and March; the drop of 0.4% took the rate to 5.7%. At 6.8% London was the highest; the South East had the lowest rate of 3.4%, with the UK rate at 4.8%.

The South East had the highest employment rate at 78.5%, this compared with 69.1% in Northern Ireland and 74.2% in the WM where 2.8m are employed; the UK rate was 75.2%.

Public sector employment in the WM increased by 3.4% to 454,000, which was 16.4% of the workforce. At 25.9% Northern Ireland had the highest level of public sector employment which compared to 14.5% in London which was the lowest.

In December, average earnings in the WM grew to £631 per week. London had the highest average earnings of £871 and the lowest average earnings of £584 were recorded in the North East and the East Midlands.

Earnings in Scotland increased the most in the UK by £37 per week whereas the biggest drop in wages was £50 in the East Midlands. The rate of annual pay growth was 4.0% for total pay and 4.6% for regular pay. In real terms, total pay is growing at a faster rate than inflation at 3.1%, with regular pay growth at 3.6%. Public sector pay grew at 5.6% compared with 3.7% in the private sector.

The public sector saw the highest estimated growth in total pay. All sectors saw positive growth, although construction (1.2%) and manufacturing (1.9%) had smaller growth than the other sectors. This is an improvement on the growth rates in April to June 2020, the three-month period with the biggest falls in average pay, when all sectors except for the public sector had negative growth rates.

Housing

The WM’s average property price increased by 1.8% in March 2021 to £220,982. The uplift took the annual increase to 10.7%. In comparison, UK prices grew by 1.8% to £256,405 during March, an annual growth rate of 10.2%.

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