Friday, 14 October 2011

A map of UK unemployment

The map below graphs the level of unemployment by county across the UK. Mapping data like this is a powerful way of exploring statistics and seeing the extent to which socio-economic problems are experienced throughout the country. The brightest colour represent the lowest unemployment rate (between 3 and 3.9%), with the darkest colour the highest (over 10%). For all the other colours, the darker the shade the higher the rate. (For areas which are black there are no data)

What can we learn from this map? In general, I think there are three insights.

  1. There is no simple north/south divide. Many areas, regardless of location, are actually experiencing quite similar levels of unemployment: there are no strikingly clear and straightforward differences between regions as we might expect. In the south-east, for example, there are county variations in unemployment which are quite similar to the Midlands or the the North-West. Economic problems are hitting many places in quite equal ways.
  2. But, there are pockets of the UK where unemployment is chronically high. Although many places have unemployment levels of between 6-8%, there are a significant number of areas where unemployment is particularly high (e.g. over 8%). Further, these places also tend to be clustered into small regions of very high unemployment, such as south-east Wales, west Scotland and the far North-East of England. Such places should be a particular focus for policy-makers.
  3. Finally, some places are comfortably protected from the UK's wider labour market difficulties. For some places, particularly in the far north of Scotland, the Home Counties and even parts of the North-West (such as Lancashire and Cheshire), there are relatively low levels of unemployment of between 3-5%. It seems that the local economies in these areas are to a large extent protected from the wider difficulties the national economy. We need to understand why some areas have strong local labour markets and, where possible, use this information to benefit weaker economies.

NB - The data are from

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