Our econ­omy is on the up

Bangor Mail - - News -

NORTH Wales has out­per­formed the UK and Welsh economies – al­though there re­main sharp dif­fer­ences across the re­gion. The lat­est eco­nomic fig­ures have shown pos­i­tive growth for the area de­spite the cur­rent UK po­lit­i­cal uncer­tainty.

Over the past year the num­ber of peo­ple em­ployed across North Wales has in­creased by 4.2% to 330,200 - com­pared to a 0.7% rise in Wales and 0.3% in­crease across the UK over­all.

The em­ploy­ment rate at 75.7% is also higher than the Welsh av­er­age (73.1%) and that of the UK (75%).

But there are vari­ances across North Wales when it comes to em­ploy­ment rates.

The best per­form­ing coun­ties were Wrex­ham (78.6%) and Flintshire (77.3%) where sec­tors like ad­vanced man­u­fac­tur­ing are boom­ing thanks to em­ploy­ers like Air­bus.

But in Conwy the em­ploy­ment rate drops to 72.2% - which re­flects the high per­cent­age of re­tired peo­ple in the county.

The most re­cent GVA fig­ures (mea­sure of the value of goods and ser­vices pro­duced in an area) are also pos­i­tive – in­creas­ing by 4.4% – com­pared to 2.9% in the UK.

But the re­gion is still lag­ging well be­hind the UK av­er­age GVA – post­ing a fig­ure of £20,753 com­pared to £27,298.

This is also re­flected in house­hold dis­pos­able in­comes with North Wales’s av­er­age £16,502 - ahead of the Wales fig­ure of £15,467 but be­low the UK av­er­age of £19,432.

Ven­tures like the Me­nai Sci­ence Park on An­gle­sey are aimed at in­creas­ing av­er­age wages across the re­gion.

While the fig­ures over­all are pos­i­tive, there are warn­ings that the on­go­ing uncer­tainty and is­sues over re­cruit­ment could dent this growth in the fu­ture.

Deb­bie Bryce, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer at West Cheshire & North Wales Cham­ber of Com­merce, said: “There are some pos­i­tive signs for

the econ­omy of North Wales with GVA growth in par­tic­u­lar look­ing strong for the re­gion, with year on year change ahead of both the Wales and UK av­er­age.

“De­spite a slightly im­proved em­ploy­ment rate, busi­nesses are fac­ing key chal­lenges in the labour mar­ket with firms in­creas­ingly re­port­ing that per­sis­tent hir­ing dif­fi­cul­ties, cost pres­sures and on­go­ing uncer­tainty are damp­en­ing re­cruit­ment in­ten­tions.

“If this trend is sus­tained it could well trans­late into a weak­en­ing in jobs growth over the next year.

“The West Cheshire & North Wales Cham­ber of Com­merce has been cam­paign­ing for some time to ad­dress the skills short­age in North Wales through its Young Cham­ber pro­gramme.

“This is some­thing which we will con­tinue to fo­cus on as we try to bridge the gap that cur­rently ex­ists be­tween ed­u­ca­tion and busi­ness.”

Cllr Dyfrig Sien­cyn, leader of Gwynedd coun­cil and vice-chair of the North Wales Eco­nomic Am­bi­tion Board, said: “It is heart­en­ing that con­fi­dence among busi­nesses in this re­gion con­tin­ues to rise and that our eco­nomic po­si­tion has been fur­ther strength­ened by an in­crease in GVA and new jobs.

“Both fig­ures are above the Wales av­er­age, and main­tain­ing that bench­mark is a pri­or­ity of the Am­bi­tion Board as we look to sign Heads of Terms for the North Wales Growth Deal this sum­mer.

“That will then en­able us to roll-out the pro­grammes and projects to re­in­force these pos­i­tive re­sults, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with our part­ners in the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tor, ed­u­ca­tion and the Welsh and UK Gov­ern­ments.”

Econ­omy Min­is­ter Ken Skates said: “These are very pos­i­tive fig­ures for North Wales, with the em­ploy­ment rate now higher than the rest of Wales and the UK av­er­age and both GVA per head and av­er­age earn­ings in North Wales also ris­ing faster than the UK av­er­age. They are tes­ti­mony to the hard work of busi­nesses across North Wales over what has been a time of great uncer­tainty for many.

“For our part, we’ve con­tin­ued to im­ple­ment our Eco­nomic Ac­tion Plan, sup­port­ing busi­nesses of all sizes across North Wales through Busi­ness Wales, the Wrex­ham­based De­vel­op­ment Bank and tar­geted Welsh Govern­ment fund­ing as they look to pros­per and ex­pand. There is no ques­tion that there is still work to do, and still chal­lenges ahead, but these are fig­ures that Welsh Govern­ment and North Wales can be justly proud of, and on which I’m de­ter­mined to build.”

Dr Ed­ward Jones, lec­turer in Eco­nom­ics at Ban­gor Univer­sity, said: “North Wales’s econ­omy is go­ing in the right di­rec­tion.

“The num­ber em­ployed in the re­gion is in­creas­ing (up 4.2% on the year) and the em­ploy­ment rate in North Wales (75.7%) is greater than Wales (73.1%) and the UK (75.0%).

“Gross Value Added (GVA), which is a mea­sures of the econ­omy, has also in­creased (4.4% year-on-year change).

“This in­crease was con­sid­er­ably more than what was seen for Wales (3.1%) and the UK (3.5%).

“De­spite this, GVA per head in North Wales (£20,800) con­tin­ues to be be­low that for the UK (£27,300), which re­flects the qual­ity of the jobs pro­duced in the re­gion.

“Also, de­spite an in­crease in the num­ber em­ployed, un­em­ploy­ment con­tin­ues to be a prob­lem – with the num­ber of those un­em­ployed in North Wales in­creas­ing (2.3%).

“How­ever, GVA is a tech­no­cratic and re­mote mea­sure of an econ­omy.

“Go­ing for­ward, we should con­sider a dash­board of wel­fare in­di­ca­tors that are mean­ing­ful to peo­ple and re­flec­tive of in­clu­sive growth.

“In­clu­sive growth en­tails a fairer dis­tri­bu­tion of the ben­e­fits of eco­nomic growth be­tween in­di­vid­u­als, and be­tween dif­fer­ent parts of Wales.

“Head­line fig­ure such as GVA mask an econ­omy that is not work­ing for the ma­jor­ity of the pop­u­la­tion with the pro­ceeds of growth not be­ing fairly shared.”

■ The Air­bus Fac­tory in Broughton, North Wales. (Right) Me­nai Sci­ence Park is help­ing to in­crease wages in north west Wales

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