The State of Britain

Wales records above average growth in 2018, Monmouthshire and Newport the best for Welsh growth, three areas of Wales in the UK bottom ten for GDP per head; more recent data highlights the country’s strong property market

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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 Welsh economy grew by c1.3% in 2018, similar to the 2017 growth rate. This placed Wales fifth (2017 ranking tenth) out of the twelve UK ‘regions.’

The UK and England growth rate in 2018 was 1.4%. Scotland grew by 0.9% and the Northern Ireland economy shrank by 0.5%.

Within the country, the Monmouthshire and Newport economy grew the fastest at 5.2%, followed by Bridgend and Neath at 4.5% and Anglesey at 4.0%. Across the UK, the highest annual growth of the 179 local areas was in Falkirk at 10.5%.

Three areas of Wales saw their GDP decline in 2018. The Central Valleys recorded the biggest drop at 4.0%, followed by Powys at 1.3% and South West Wales at 0.7%. In UK terms, the lowest annual growth of subnational areas was in Mid and East Antrim at -10.1%.

GDP per head growth of 4.2% to £28,821 was seen in Monmouthshire and Newport although at £31,824 Cardiff and Glamorgan were top. GDP per head fell by 4.4% in the Central Valleys to £17,950 but despite a growth rate of 3.8% Anglesey was bottom in Wales with £17,781.

In terms of UK extremes, GDP per head in Camden and the City of London was £395,309 and £15,034 in Ards and North Down. Three areas of Wales were in the UK bottom ten; Anglesey was 176th out of 179 despite the good growth rate of 3.8%. These figures are a guide and are influenced by commuter flows.

In 2018, key drivers of the Welsh economy were mining and quarrying up 6.1%, administrative support services 5.3% and transportation and storage up 3.9%. Those areas that did not perform well were education down by 3.3%, arts/entertainment declined by 2.3% and information and communication down 0.8%. Overall the services and manufacturing sectors grew by 1.5% and construction grew by 1.1%.

The 2018 performance of the country’s three economic areas was also highlighted by the ONS. Of the UK’s 45 development bodies or economic regions (the Welsh Development Agency was abolished in 2006), Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP was ranked 1st in the UK with growth of 2.8%. The North Wales Economic Region moved up the rankings from 35th to 7th with growth of 2.2% whilst the South East Wales Economic Region was static at 21st. The Mid and South West Wales Economic Region moved up 16 places to 27th with growth of only 0.8%.

More data from the ONS showed unemployment in Wales dropped by 4,000 to 55,000 between August and October 2019; the drop of 0.2% took the overall rate to 3.6%. 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 74.3% in Wales. The UK rate was 76.2%.

UK property prices grew in only three parts of the country. Growth of 0.7% in Wales during October 2019 took prices to £166,245, an annual uplift of 3.3%, the biggest hike in Britain. In comparison, UK prices fell by 0.7% to £232,944, an annual growth rate of 0.7%.