Page last updated at 17:57 GMT, Friday, 23 January 2009

Recession around the UK

As official data confirms the country is now in recession, business correspondents from across the UK offer their view of the recession across the nations and regions.

Mark Simpson, BBC Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, there is some shelter from the chill economic winds as the large public sector helps to insulate the economy.

However, private sector jobs are being lost, especially in manufacturing and in the construction industry. The rise in unemployment last year was the biggest increase since 1971.

The effects of the downturn at Portrush Harbour in Northern Ireland

It's not all bad news - the fall of the pound against the euro means that more and more shoppers from the Irish Republic are coming north to spend their money.

It is helping to protect jobs in distribution and retail, particularly in border areas.

There are hopes too that the 'euro-factor' will improve tourism, at a time when the new-found peace in Belfast is making it a more attractive weekend destination.

Nonetheless, economists are predicting a gloomy 2009 for Northern Ireland, with most forecasting an overall decline of between 1.0 and 1.8%.

The timing could hardly be worse. After overcoming a long line of political storms, the people are now faced with an economic one.

Hayley Millar, BBC Scotland

Last year, the house building and construction industries were the biggest casualties of the downturn in the Scottish economy, with 26,000 jobs thought to have gone.

Towards the end of the year, we saw the downturn spread to other sectors.

Many manufacturing firms are laying people off, but the numbers are smaller. This makes it harder to get an accurate picture of the situation, because Scotland no longer has large-scale manufacturing plants.

James Duffy was laid off after 20 years with the same firm in East Kilbride.

The last wave of these were decimated with the electronics slump earlier this decade. And that is why we are not matching the announcements of hundreds at a time, which we see in England.

Since Christmas, the retail sector has been hit by store closures, like elsewhere. But generally, there is more of a "drip drip" effect happening as companies cut usually fewer than 50 jobs at a time.

Recently we've seen examples like 38 jobs going in Hawick at a bed factory and 40 redundancies at a legal firm in Dundee. This week 150 are going at a food factory on the outskirts of Glasgow.

Economic forecasts estimate that 50,000 jobs could be lost in Scotland this year and next, with the worst-case scenarios leading to 124,000 job losses. Since these reports were published last autumn, other surveys are reporting an acceleration in the downturn and its affect on the labour market.

Scotland's big imponderable is how many of the country's 40,000 banking staff will lose their jobs. The impact of the banking crisis has yet to be felt here, but it will be and estimates range from 9,000 to 14,000 redundancies.

This is the one area which makes Scotland more vulnerable, because so much of its economic growth comes from financial services.

Officially, we will not be able to confirm whether Scotland is in recession today, because GDP figures are produced later by the Scottish government and run three months behind the UK figures. However, the consensus from business and economic surveys is that we are already there.

Wyre Davies, BBC News Cardiff

Cardiff city centre was full of shoppers on Friday, taking advantage of some of those 50, 60 and 70% sales that many stores are still offering to draw the punters in. But there's no escaping a bitter truth - Wales, like every other part of the UK, is falling under the ominous cloud of recession.

Manufacturing in Wales, in particular, has been hit hard and hit quickly. When big firms, like steelmaker Corus or engine manufacturer Ford, lay off hundreds of workers or suspend production - the knock on effect is as inevitable as the tide coming in.

Small and medium sized companies are the real backbone of the Welsh economy, working out of those rather unglamorous business parks you see up and down the country. Often they supply the bigger, household, names. When the big names stumble or fall, thousands throughout Wales further down the food chain are put in jeopardy.

On Friday, many of those small business leaders called for a national recovery plan - they want help to see out the worst of the recession without having to lay off and lose valuable, skilled workers.

Of course the economy hasn't flat-lined. Businesses and services are still employing people, still contributing to economic output. On Friday in North Wales, the Welsh First Minister, Rhodri Morgan, made a point on a day of generally bad news to open Hawker Beechcraft's aircraft painting facility, which is creating 40 jobs with a £4.5m investment.

Back on the High Street - despite the "closing-down" sales and huge discounting, some well positioned Welsh firms are doing well. Peacocks, a clothes retailer aiming at the middle of the market, is recruiting staff and looking to open new stores - perhaps taking advantage of some premises vacated by less competitive firms who have gone under and borrowing money at very low interest rates.

But there is no escaping it - like the Welsh weather, the economic outlook here is gloomy. There are now just shy of 100,000 people in Wales out of work and looking for a job. Unlike the inclement weather, they'll have to wait for several months for their prospects to improve.

Robin Punt, BBC Midlands

Here in the Midlands many famous companies are feeling the force of the downturn.

At JCB, the manufacturing powerhouse, 1,700 jobs have been cut in the last eight months. A 30-minute drive away, Waterford Wedgewood has gone into administration, with 600 workers' jobs axed since August.

But it is the long term effects of job losses that will pose the biggest problem when the economy does eventually recover.

Key industrial skills lost to recession will make it harder to regenerate a region that has already seen many jobs move overseas.

Richard Smith, BBC South East

Here in the South East the feeling is that it is not great but it could be worse.

There have been several high-profile victims of the tough times.

Speed Ferries went into administration, hundreds of jobs are to go at Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline, while Kent County Council is trying to claw back the £15m it invested in Icelandic banks.

But unemployment rates are below average, business confidence is set to be higher, and the data firm Experian says that in the long term the region will be the fastest-growing in the UK.

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