Region’s economy sustaining its impressive performance

Stephen Blackman, senior economist at RBS

Stephen Blackman, senior economist at RBS - Credit: Ian Jacobs

The East of England economy is yet to reach the size of the pre-crisis levels, but an impressive growth performance has seen it ranked in fourth place in a list of other English regions.

According to the findings of the latest RBS Growth Tracker the region's economy grew by about 0.8pc in the first three months of the year.

The findings are the latest in a raft of good news on the local economy front.

This week a poll of Norfolk firms carried out by business advisors Grant Thornton found that 91.3pc of Norfolk firms believe that conditions are better now than six months ago, while on Monday the Lloyds Bank East of England Business Activity Index noted that employment levels in the region grew at their fastest ever rate last month while the overall level of economic activity was also close to a new record.

The RBS tracker noted that top performing areas were Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Luton and output in wholesale and retail, plus a buoyant property market, supported the region's economy.

Stephen Blackman, senior economist at RBS, said: 'The East of England secured fourth place among the English regions in Q1, narrowly missing out on a podium finish. But medal-hoarders shouldn't feel disappointed. The UK economy has a spring in its step and the region is keeping pace. Output has expanded for five consecutive quarters meaning the region's output is 3.6pc higher than it was at the end of 2012.

He added: 'A number of sectors provided a disproportionate boost to the region's economy. In particular the wholesale and retail trades, which not only outpaced average growth for the UK but is a sector more important to the East of England's economy than it is for the UK overall. It makes up 14pc of the region's output, higher than the UK's 11pc. It's the same story for the real estate sector. It too grew faster than average growth for the UK and has above-average importance for the region.

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'But as the region's performance matched the UK average other sectors must have underperformed. The region's pharmaceutical-related firms in particular seem to have struggled, output in the sector is down across the UK, which affected the final ranking of the East of England's performance in our tracker.

'Overall this is an impressive performance. And early indications suggest this will continue in the current quarter. It's welcome too, as the East of England's economy remains slightly smaller than it was on the eve of the crisis.'