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In-depth report lays bare impact of the pandemic on the West Midlands


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The full impact of Covid-19 on the economy and communities of the West Midlands has been set out in an annual report providing an honest stocktake of how the region has fared over the last 12 months.

Initial baseline forecasts say the regional economy (GVA) shrunk by around 9% in 2020 from £106bn to £97bn. It is not expected to regain its previous size until 2022.

But the academic research also found signs of encouragement. Forecasting models show relatively strong regional growth in 2021, and the latest forecasts have been revised upwards with the success of the vaccine rollout.

The report, which has been written by the University of Birmingham-based West Midlands Regional Economic Development Institute (WMREDI) and will be presented to the West Midlands Combination Authority (WMCA) Board on Friday, June 25, shows how Covid has impacted the progress the region had been making before the pandemic struck.

Cllr Ian Brookfield, leader of the City of Wolverhampton Council and WMCA portfolio holder for economy and innovation, said: “The region has already used some of the evidence in this State of the Region report to shape our ‘Recharge’ strategy and the actions taken to lessen the impact of Covid-19 and kickstart a recovery.

“That has helped, but we need to be completely honest about the scale of the challenge we face. This independent report should be a rallying cry for everyone to pull together to make sure our recovery creates a greener and fairer region in which those hit hardest by the pandemic are not left behind.”

The number of people with qualifications improved markedly over the last year, with 36% of people in the West Midlands now qualified to NVQ4+, an increase of 10%, the highest level since records began.

Next year’s Commonwealth Games will also provide a unique opportunity to drive action to tackle the issues in the region’s hardest-hit sectors, especially hospitality, while demonstrating to the world what the area has to offer post-pandemic.

However, findings set out in the State of the Region report clearly show the impact of Covid on businesses and communities. Pre-pandemic levels of employment may not return until 2023, with the region’s unemployment claimant count almost doubling last year. 

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMCA added: “There is no question the pandemic has hit us exceptionally hard, but we have to use this report as a call to action for the West Midlands.

“We are in a difficult position right now, but I want residents to know that we are utterly determined to get this region back on top once again – and we have the plans to make that happen.”

The analysis presented in State of the Region 2020 will now help develop action plans to meet the five challenges – Delivering Good Jobs, Supporting Thriving Places and Communities, Tackling Inequality and Levelling-up, Preventing a Lost Generation and Embed Our Green Ambitions.


Written by: David Watkins

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