The term ‘Northern Powerhouse’ has been a top economic talking point in 2015. Devolution plans to spread wealth and opportunities away from London is now gathering pace as talks in Manchester over a £6bn NHS devolution plan are now underway. As part of England’s devolution, regional growth away from the dominance of the South East has come under closer scrutiny than ever before, with all eyes on how the north-south divide will be improved over the coming years. The latest Regional Labour Market report from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) in June, plus statistics from other reliable sources, shed some light on how the regional markets have fared since 2013. Here are some key findings from reports published in 2015.
- The employment rate was highest in the South West (77.3%) and lowest in Northern Ireland (68.4) between February and April this year
- Unemployment was highest in the North East (7.5%) and lowest in the South East (4.2%) between December 2014 and March 2015
- The top two employment regions in the UK in May 2015 were the North West (2% increase) and the South West (1.5% increase)
- The Welsh employment rate decreased by 0.4% – the only decrease in the UK between January to March 2015 from 2014
- Record high employment levels were recorded in the North West, West Midlands, East of England, the South East and the South West of the country
- The biggest increase in UK workforce jobs was in the West Midlands (40,000 jobs) while the largest decrease was in the South East (32,000)
- London growth was fastest in 2014 Q4, while the five fastest growing regions from the same period were: Inner East London, Milton Keynes, Aberdeen, Cambridge and Herefordshire
- The biggest decrease in public sector jobs between 2012 Q2 and 2015 Q1 was in the North Ease (13.4% decrease) – total UK public sector employment fell by 6.7% in this time frame. South East public sector employment fell by 2.5%: the smallest decrease since 2012. No percentage increases were recorded
- Claimant rates were highest in Northern Ireland (4.8%) and lowest in the South East (1.2%) between February and April 2015
- The 2015 Centre for Cities report revealed that for every 12 jobs created in southern England, one is lost in the north between 2004 and 2013
- Between 2004 and 2013, the number of private sector positions increased by 12.6% in London and fell by an average of 1.1% across the rest of the UK
- London earnings averaged at £41,000 by Q4 2014 – the highest in the UK.
What these findings show is that the north south divide needs to be rapidly addressed in the UK. Devolution deals for cities across England will be announced in a matter of month to give regional governments new powers over transport, economic development and health spending to selected areas. The historical imbalance, which dates back to the 19th century, is now being fully addressed to continue national recovery and avoid another economic crash in London and the South East. As part of the national drive, David Cameron has promised to create two million jobs by 2020 – 60% of which will be created outside the capital.
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