Only modest economic growth is forecast for the West Midlands over the next 5 years

A continuing under–representation of higher value added sectors means that the pace of economic growth in the West Midlands over the next five years is forecast to be modest.

Gross Value Added (GVA)

The Observatory’s new report The West Midlands economy post recession: key issues and challenges (pdf, 844kb) forecasts GVA to grow by just 11% (£9 billion) between 2010–2015. This compares with growth of 15% (£11 billion) between 2000–2007.

While the pace of growth is forecast to be strongest in higher value added private sector activities (such as ICT & telecoms and high value added business & professional services), they account for only a limited share of GVA. Growth is expected to be much weaker in sectors that dominate the regional economy such as lower value added, traditional private sector activities and the public sector.

Geographically, GVA is forecast to grow most strongly (by some 13% between 2010–2015) in areas identified as those with potential to lead the region’s recovery such as Solihull, Warwick and Stratford-on-Avon.

The weakest growth (less than 9% over the period) is expected in areas identified as having long-term issues that may inhibit recovery such as Wolverhampton, Walsall, Stoke-on-Trent and Sandwell.

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Recovery from the recession remains fragile in the West Midlands

According to recent research by the Observatory, recovery from the recession has been fragile. After rising in the second half of 2009, recruitment activity faltered in the early months of 2010.

Geographically, the areas expected to experience the most fragile economic recovery in terms of growth in GVA and jobs are traditional industrial areas, such as the Black Country and Stoke-on-Trent. These areas have historically been dependent on industries such as engineering, manufacturing and construction.

Recovery is expected to be strongest in areas clustered in the south and east of the West Midlands, in Solihull and Warwickshire. These areas benefit from a strong presence of high value added knowledge-based industries,  good communication links and environmental quality.

The pace of economic growth in the West Midlands over the next five years (2010–2015) is forecast to be modest. GVA is forecast to grow by 11% (£9 billion) over the period. This compares with growth of 15% (£11 billion) between 2000–2007.

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Weaknesses in the West Midlands economy act as a drag on future prospects

There’s a need to drive sustainable economic growth in the West Midlands, which in turn can foster the investment and business success that will create job growth. This requires giving priority to growth sectors and the development of a world class skills base.

However, the Observatory’s new report, The West Midlands economy post recession: key issues and challenges (pdf, 844kb), highlights continuing under representation of higher value added sectors.

Lower value added private sector activities such as low value business services, wholesale and retail, hotels and catering, and cultural, recreational and sporting activities make a particularly significant contribution to the regional economy. These account for more than half of GVA and employment.

Share of employment in the West Midlands by broad sector in 2008

Share of employment in the West Midlands by broad sector in 2008

Source: Office for National Statistics Annual Business Enquiry
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Traditional private sector industries such as engineering and transport technologies, other manufacturing activities such as the interiors and lifestyle, and food and drink clusters, construction and building technologies also make a significant contribution. So do public sector activities such as public administration, education, and health and social care.

These sectors are an important source of jobs for people with fewer skills and can play a key role in reducing worklessness and economic and social deprivation.

But reducing the dependence of the West Midlands economy on these activities and attracting and developing more businesses in higher value added sectors such as higher value added business & professional services, environmental technologies, digital media and medical technologies is key to improving the West Midlands’ economic performance and generating more new highly skilled jobs.

However, to date, these sectors have generated only limited levels of GVA and employment.

As a result, the private sector in the West Midlands has grown relatively slowly in recent years. Between 1998–2008 employment increased by just 30,000 (growth of 2% which compares to an increase of 19% across the UK as a whole).

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Research published on prospects for the West Midlands economy post recession

Report cover: The West Midlands economy post recessionAt the end of June, the Observatory published The West Midlands Economy Post Recession: Key Issues and Challenges (pdf, 844kb), a major piece of research exploring the changing needs of the region’s economy and labour market as it emerges from recession.

The research is informing the decisions of employers, individuals, providers and the skills system as they look to focus their investment in key areas to maximise impact.

Firstly, the research considers the region’s recent poor economic performance and the key factors that have contributed to this.

We detail the weaknesses within the region’s economic structure and, in particular, the dependence on public sector and lower value added private sector activities, in terms of GVA and jobs, and the limited representation of high value added, knowledge-based sectors.

We also highlight the low rates of productivity in many of the sectors that dominate the regional economy and assess the skill gaps and shortages businesses in the West Midlands face and the impact on productivity and performance.

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Observatory enterprise and innovation team update: May 2010

This is the second post in a new series of weekly Observatory research updates; there will be one post from a different research team each week. We’re doing this in response to feedback we received in our recent website user survey. Please do get in touch with any feedback.

It’s rather a brief update from the Enterprise and Innovation team this month as during April and May we’ve been busy researching and compiling two interesting reports on different aspects of enterprise and employment in the West Midlands.

Aspirations of businesses in West Midlands

Our first piece of research is focused on uncovering emerging trends and issues related to aspirations of the region’s businesses and what is constraining their growth ambitions.

Our initial analysis is drawn from existing data following a scoping exercise to uncover what information sources were available on the topic. This proved particularly challenging; information regarding aspirations and barriers to growth is rather scarce. However, the report will outline a number of findings that we hope partners will find interesting.

Employment trends from Annual Business Inquiry data

Our second piece of research looks at trends in employment in the West Midlands using the latest Annual Business Inquiry data.

Initially reviewing the performance at a broad sector level, our report compares the trends of the West Midlands against the UK average and other regions.

The report also looks at the underlying drivers behind notable headline sector trends, providing in-depth analysis using the most detailed to Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes to fully examine what has been driving growth. Using predefined SIC groupings, the research looks at the recent trends in employment, the research looks at the recent trends in employment of high tech and knowledge intensive industries and Advantage West Midlands’ clusters. We also explore the breakdown of employment demographics.

We’ll publish these reports on the Observatory’s enterprise and innovation research pages in the coming weeks.

Continuing the legacy of the Women’s Enterprise Centre of Expertise

Thanks to Marla Nelson from the Strategic Women’s Enterprise Project for providing this guest post.

A new initiative has been launched in the West Midlands as a legacy project building on the work and findings of the Women’s Enterprise Centre of Expertise (WECOE).

The Strategic Women’s Enterprise Project is managed by Enterprise Solutions, who will continue to influence, lobby and advocate for the women’s enterprise agenda in the West Midlands region, funded by regional development agency Advantage West Midlands.

The project aims to assist Advantage West Midlands in implementing WECOE policy recommendations, and work with Business Link West Midlands and other key strategic partners to ensure policy and practice is mainstreamed in supporting greater diversity in enterprise and business support across the region.  The 2-year WECOE project completed in December 2009.

To find out more about the Strategic Women’s Enterprise Project, and Enterprise Solutions (MN), contact Marla Nelson at marla@enterprisesolutionsmn.com or call 07515 597 595.

Research on women’s enterprise in the West Midlands

Woman walking through offices at Pump House ShrewsburyIn December 2009, the Women’s Enterprise Centre of Expertise (WECOE) held a dissemination event marking the end of their project on women’s enterprise.

The event gave a platform to a large range of speakers, from ministers of parliament to academic researchers.

Rosie Winterton MP reviewed the progress of government policy in the sphere of women’s enterprise, and indicated future policy directions.

Professor Mark Hart spoke of his work (Women and entrepreneurial activity in the West Midlands: evidence from GEM 2002-08, pdf, 287kb) with data from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor which indicates that the primary factor hampering the development of women’s enterprise in the West Midlands is their disproportionate fear of failure. This is an important finding which suggests a clear direction for policy makers to take.

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