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Map of the week: Wealth of the nation

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Mark Easton | 10:38 UK time, Monday, 17 November 2008

Amid all the talk of recession and today's particularly gloomy forecast from the CBI, it is easy to forget just how much richer we have become in the last few years.

There is just one place, Caerphilly, where GDP is actually lower now than it was five years ago - down 2.7%.

But, despite the downturn, almost everywhere else in England and Wales has seen economic activity increase. In some places, very dramatically.

In Shrewsbury, for example, they have seen a 36% rise in prosperity. Winchester is 33% wealthier. And one of the poorest boroughs in London, Hackney, is 29% better off in GDP terms than it was in 2003.

It is not just a southern phenomenon. South Tyneside in the North East of England is 27.5% wealthier than five years ago. Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales has seen 28% growth. South Holland in Lincolnshire up 29%.

These numbers, providing important perspective amid the fiscal pessimism, are culled from my Map of the Week this week. Recessionmap is an excellent website for those who like to see data in spatial terms.

The company behind the map-style database, consultants Gavurin,
take the numbers published by the government and allow you to chart the situation geographically.They hope to add Scotland soon, incidentally.

There is a huge amount of information stored behind the maps and I would encourage anyone with an interest in how the downturn is affecting different parts of the country to find time to explore.

Looking at change in GDP since 2003 in England and Wales, there is no obvious geographical picture.

GDP England & WalesWhile the South East region has seen an increase of 17% over the past five years, so has the North East.

Wales and East England have done poorest in regional terms - 13% growth.
The downturn, so far, has only taken wealth back to where it was in the middle of last year. That's not to say it won't get a lot worse, of course.

There are places which seem to have missed out almost entirely on the economic expansion of the last five years. I mentioned Caerphilly's negative growth, but other places like Castle Morpeth, Redcar and Cleveland, Hyndburn and Croydon have not seen local productivity improve much.

What the map tries to do is assess the impact of falling GDP on employment - they estimate the economic contraction so far will translate into the loss of around 176,000 jobs across Great Britain, less than the impact suggested by some.

The analysts have factored in the likely impact on different industrial sectors. As they say in their explanation, "a place with only manufacturing and nothing else, would experience an impact very different from one with only financial services.

The mix will have an effect, as will the productivity of sectors, the exposure of them to foreign markets, the experience and skill of managers and so on."

They assume "a more or less direct relationship between jobs and GDP; that a 2% drop in GDP in a sector would result in a 2% loss in employment in that sector".
Obviously, there may be ultra-local factors, such as the impact of one big employer going under.

Nevertheless, the data purports to show where the downturn is biting most severely. In percentage terms, the East Midlands has seen the greatest regional change - 0.71% of jobs lost equivalent to 13,000 jobs in the past month. However, the area with the lowest proportion of workers affected, London at 0.61%, sees the greatest number - 24,500.

Job losses by regionDig down into the data and you find that Thurrock in Essex has the highest proportion of its workforce affected - down 0.93%, Corby is down 0.9% and Dartford down 0.86%.

In numbers terms, Westminster has lost the most jobs in a month - 3,600, Birmingham 3,300 and Leeds 2,600. Click here to see the map

Burrow down even further and you look at the proportion of the a local workforce which is claiming Jobseekers' Allowance in areas of about 1500 people.

The highest rate I could find was near the University of Aston in the central area of Birmingham where 24% of the workforce is on the dole, although numbers get pretty small at this level.The proportion is equivalent to just 342 JSA claimants.

What recessionmap does is offer up to ten years of hard data - maps, numbers and graphs which remind us of just how much things have changed in a decade.


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