Page last updated at 10:57 GMT, Friday, 24 April 2009 11:57 UK

Taking the UK's economic pulse

BBC News correspondents across the country are finding out how badly each region is being affected by the downturn.

The government's latest growth figures showed that the recession is deepening, with GDP contracting by 1.9% in the first three months of 2009.


There was a smidgen of good news for the North East economy this week. We are no longer the country's unemployment blackspot.

Unemployment dropped slightly; from 8.6% to 8.3%, and the West Midlands took the unwanted accolade. But that's about it.

James Rambotham: 'If one business here has a problem the others suffer as well'

At the country's biggest chemical complex, Wilton near Middlesbrough in Teesside, it was confirmed 300 jobs will go as a plant closes.

Another is up for sale and will close if a buyer isn't found.

The site - essential to the Teesside economy - is wracked with uncertainty and its 5,000 workers face an uncertain future.


Company bosses in the Midlands have described the last few months as "like falling off the edge of a cliff". Orders books are down, thousands of jobs have been lost and scores of firms have been forced into administration.

Westley Engineering's Gerry Dunne on the downturn

The region is heavily reliant on the automotive sector. Jaguar and Land Rover, JCB and Toyota all have large factories here. Workers there have faced pay cuts and reduced working hours.

One of the biggest stories recently has been the plight of the van maker LDV, which hasn't made a single vehicle since before Christmas.

A serious lack of orders has left the company on the brink of collapse and desperately seeking emergency funding.

But the impact of the recession goes much further than just car or van production lines. It's reckoned that for every one job in vehicle manufacturing there are four or five others in the supply chain that rely on continued orders.


The biggest victims of the recession so far in Wales have been manufacturing workers.

Cardiff's St David's 2 development should create 4,000 jobs

Thousands of jobs continue to be lost as long-established firms shift production abroad. Workers who were earning up to £30,000 a year in some cases are now going to job centres and being offered work paying less than half of that.

More people work in the public sector in Wales than any other sector.

That was seen as offering a degree of protection, but the prospect of cuts is now causing concern.

Many retail-led schemes have been delayed - although the giant St David's 2 scheme in Cardiff is due to open in October, creating 4,000 jobs.


The east of England has had a rough ride over the past year.

Felixstowe is Britain's biggest container terminal

Its economy, based on service industries, prospered during the boom years, giving it one of the lowest unemployment rates in the UK.

But a string of high profile job losses at companies such as Norwich Union, Indesit, Freemans and Vion Foods have shown it's not recession proof.

Even the Port of Felixstowe and Stansted Airport, two important engines of growth, have gone into reverse.

Traffic through Felixstowe is down by 20% over the past six months. And passenger numbers at Stansted are down 14% since the start of this year.


The public sector accounts for 60% of Northern Ireland's income, making it the main driver behind the economy. So while better-insulated against a downturn, Northern Ireland has not escaped the ravages of the recession.

'When England catches cold, Northern Ireland has a reputation for getting influenza'

Unemployment has been climbing since October 2007. At 5.7%, the jobless total remains below the UK average but is creeping up on the national figure.

Overall output in the production and service industries has fallen by 5.2% and 3.4% respectively in the past year.

The manufacturing and construction sectors have been hit the worst by the recession.

The weakness of the pound against the euro has provided some help, especially in the border regions because of the influx of cross-border shoppers from the Irish Republic.


The Scottish Government published its own GDP figures on Wednesday, showing a decline in the final quarter of last year that was, at 1.7%, slightly faster than that of the UK as a whole.

Colin Maclean, asset manager: 'The weak pound helps tourism particularly'

Unemployment is rising, but its level is not as high as the UK average.

That is partly explained by the larger public sector, and there are fewer vulnerable older industries because past recessions cleared them out.

While Scottish banks have run into serious financial difficulties and lending has been affected, their specific impact on Scotland's economy and on jobs has yet to become clear.


The economic downsizing of this recession continues in the south of England with companies shedding staff and consumers choosing cheaper options.

Over the past quarter the number of people in jobs fell by 32,000 - the largest decline of any region.

South west England hopes it can weather the storm

However, the Regional Development Agency, SEEDA, reports some manufacturers expecting orders to pick up over the next three months.

As luxury hotels cut prices the budget alternatives are expanding.

With the pound worth less abroad Eurocamp are opening new campsites in Britain. Other companies report banks still cutting back existing credit and limiting further investment.


The car industry remains the biggest concern here.

Leyland Trucks in Preston, Britain's last remaining mass producer, has seen output fall as suppliers struggle to find credit. One of its two shifts has been axed and 500 jobs have been cut.

Jason Fruen
Some of those out of work are willing to take extreme measures

Jaguar staff at Halewood have voted to take a shorter working week and a pay freeze. In Ellesmere Port, staff at Vauxhall work a four-day week.

The North West is the second worst hit region as the recession bites and unemployment figures grow. More than a quarter of a million are out of work here, with Manchester and Liverpool particularly affected.

Some are willing to take desperate measures.

Jason Fruen from Salford was so desperate to find work that he turned himself into a human billboard on one of Manchester's busiest roads. The unemployed engineer was offered a position that day.

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