Data published in June shows that although headline activity indicators are positive, weakness lingers in the labour market and export trends across the regions. London continues to outperform.
Continuing the upward trend from last month, the Lloyds TSB/Markit PMI index of private sector activity in May recorded an expansion for all English regions. Yorkshire & the Humber and London enjoyed the strongest performance while Northeast and East of England saw the weakest levels of activity, as indicated in the chart below. Nevertheless, the fact that all regions are above the critical 50 mark is an encouraging sign, and similar positive trends in new orders suggest that this momentum could yet pick up. Scotland and Wales also enjoyed expansions, leaving only Northern Ireland in negative territory.
Not as encouraging, however, was the Labour Market Statistics data released by the Office of National Statistics. It revealed that the net positive job creation in the three months to April was largely underpinned by employment gains in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. The English regions saw mostly marginal employment falls in the same period. The North East and West Midlands continue to have the highest rates of unemployment of 10.1% and 9.4% respectively.
Quarterly Regional Trade Statistics show that the value of exports fell in all UK regions and countries in the year to 2013q1 with the exception of the midlands. The number of exporters also fell in North East, Yorkshire & Humberside, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland in the same period. The South East has the largest total export value of all the English regions, accounting for 20.2% of total exports from England. The South West had the smallest total value of exports (5.8% of England’s total). Year on year, the largest percentage increase in export value in the English regions was in the West Midlands, where exports rose by 6.5% in the year to 2013q1.
Nationwide shows that house prices increased in all regions except Yorkshire & the Humber, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The biggest increase came in East Anglia where prices were also up strongly compared to last year. London continues to surge ahead at 5.2% year-on-year in 2013q2. At the other extreme, prices are down year-on-year in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Yorkshire & the Humber.
Gfk’s consumer confidence index for June improved upon the 5 point jump in May as it edged up to -21. Notably the question regarding how suitable consumers felt the climate was for major purchases edged up by 5 points to -20; but general confidence remains muted despite marginal improvements across the regions.
Written by Nina Orteza