Small mercies for North East in latest economic statistics

Confirmation that productivity in the North East economy did not slump during the pandemic as much as in some other parts of the UK comes today for the second time this week in figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Gross value added (GVA) in the region during the third quarter (June-September) of 2021, indexed to its 2019 level (i.e. 2019 = 100) was 96.6 This was ahead of the East Midlands, West Midlands and the South East. London’s indexed level was the highest compared with its 2019 level, at 102.8.

Indexed figures show how GVA grew or shrank within the region concerned over time – in this case between 2019 and the June-September 2021 period – not whether GVA in one region was higher than in another in a particular period.

Statistics issued by the ONS in a different form and for a different period, reported on this website two days ago, show that GVA in the first quarter of 2022 was up 0.8% on the previous quarter in the North East, in line with the UK average.

Today’s statistics cover job numbers, output per job and output per hour as well as GVA, all for the third quarter of 2021 and all indexed to a baseline of 2019 = 100.

The North East’s jobs index was the highest in the UK at 100.8. This is not incompatible with the North East simultaneously having an employment rate of only 70.7% compared with a UK rate of 75.4%, as the index measures the change within the region since 2019 while the percentages compare the North East with other regions.

The North East’ index of total hours worked was 97.7, which was seventh highest out of 12 countries and regions of the UK; output per job was 96.1, ahead of only the West Midlands; and output per hour was 99.1, which was seventh out of 12.

COMMENT

Today’s statistics cover the first 18 months of the pandemic and cannot be taken as a reliable indicator of the state of the economy. They show the North East continuing to struggle in terms of jobs and productivity, with much work to be done. However, other regions, particularly the West Midlands, are also in difficulties. The North East has not fallen further catastrophically adrift from the whole of the rest of the national economy. The statistics contain small mercies for the region, though we should not be tempted to gloat at the misfortunes of others.