Skip to main content

State of the Region 2020 Full Report


Reviewing the extensive monitoring we have carried out over the last three months there is cause for concern, but the focus now should be on recovery and protecting our assets. Businesses are ready for change and are already innovating, we have to ensure that local skills and employment policies ensure people, especially the young, women and Black and minority ethnics groups who have been hit hardest by the impacts can fit into this change. We may also need to prepare for economic restructuring which significantly changes the job structure in the region. We also need to support and promote a return to good spending and the financial resilience in businesses and households.

There are signs that businesses are adjusting their employment but remaining productive, if this pattern grows or remains in the long term it could point towards higher levels of structural unemployment but improved productivity (similar to other European countries). Since 2009 the UK has maintained / grown employment levels and protected the skilled workforce but the trend outlined above may signal the end of that pattern. Rather the emerging pattern may be more aligned to the structural changes in the 1980s. This would lead to high levels of unemployment once furlough ends.

Covid-19 could exacerbate our weaknesses and undermine our strengths. This means we need to protect our assets, such as the diversity of our population,  entrepreneurial business base, our improving skills base, strong levels of exporting and international networks, high business investment and the growing employment base and wage growth.

There is a need to ensure our strong sectors survive and flagship companies that support supply chains can adapt, such as business and professional services, construction, automotive and university sector. All sectors currently under threat, and with a high volume of jobs to maintain and grow levels of quality jobs. Sectors which are expected to bounce back, such as retail, hospitality, tourism and culture and provide large numbers of jobs and are based on large numbers of SMES need to be supported to open back up and adapt to the changes. There is a need to build recovery on a resilient infrastructure, which encourages diversifying and supporting local growth, employment and supply chains and moving to a greener future. At the same time we need to develop new ways of working internationally in a tech-based future.

Reviewing the 1918 pandemic for wider economic, social and longer term impacts, some key issues can be seen emerging now, most notably higher death rates in the poor, disadvantaged communities. Variability at the time was attributed to inequalities of wealth and social status, bad diet, crowded living which created an environment where the poor, immigrants and ethnic minorities were more susceptible to infection. As a result cities were hit harder and it took 2 years to recover, with generally 3 peaks, the second more severe due to early lifting of lock down measures in some countries. These unequal impacts are being replicated today.