UK City Productivity Musings


There has been much comment (and some puzzlement) in the last year about how and why productivity growth at national level has not returned back to pre-crisis levels. This article in the Economist goes over some of the theories behind why this might be happening.

City Productivity

Given the publication of a broad measure of productivity at a sub regional level in December 2015 I thought it would be interesting to see how some of our major cities have fared. The graph above plots GVA/head of population – actuals and trendlines. The trends are derived from the data from 1997-2008. But before going into the post crisis paths of our major cities (and these are the Local Authority districts alone not the city regions) the pre crisis trends deserve a word or two.

What is clear graphically in the period 1997-2008 is that London was pulling away slowly from Leeds and Manchester – which seem to have had GVA/head roughly growing at similar rates. What is far more noticeable however is the fact that Birmingham  has a much slower rate of productivity growth – than all the other cities. Instead of catching up it was falling further and further behind.

So lets then look at the  period post recession…and this is again just solely looking at the graph. It appears that London is well on the way to getting back to its trend growth rate. It did slow down because of the recession but it has slowly been clawing its way back to its trend growth rate. This is not so for Leeds and Manchester. Manchester whilst now seemingly growing at pre -crisis level – hasn’t made up the gap. Leeds on the other hand hasn’t yet recovered to pre-crisis levels of productivity growth and the gap between where it is now and where it might have been seems to be growing slightly.

So what is the story for Birmingham – it looks again graphically that Birmingham – like Leeds – is not yet growing at its trend growth rate and is perhaps slowly moving further away from where it might have been. This is serious for the City given its already low trend growth rate.

Now these are just graphs but they do suggest that despite all the hype around LEPs and the devolution process in recent years there hasn’t yet been a fundamental change in trajectories for cities outside London.



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