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Welsh economy: in numbers

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Work is a key driver of economic prosperity and well-being for both individuals and regions. The rate of employment and average earnings reflect the impact of work on people in Wales.
  • Employment Rate

    Employment rate of people aged 16-64 in Wales and comparator regions.
    UK rank
    12 UK regions countries
    Wales Rate
    Change of rate on year
    Percentage points

    What is it?

    While the unemployment rate and the inactivity rate are important measures, the employment rate provides the best overall summary of labour market conditions, and measures all people aged 16-64 employed as a percentage of the population aged 16-64.

    Current position

    The current employment rate in Wales is 71.2 per cent which means that 1.4 million people aged 16-64 living in Wales are employed. This rate is higher than in Northern Ireland, the North East and the West Midlands, but below the 8 other regions and countries.

    Short term trend

    The employment rate has increased by 1.0 percentage points when compared with a year ago, the second highest increase, of the 12 UK countries and English regions. East of England had the largest fall over the year (down 0.6 percentage points) followed by the South West and Scotland (down 0.4 percentage points and 0.1 percentage points respectively).

    Long term trend

    The employment rate in Wales for the year ending 31 December 2016 was 2.0 percentage points higher than the rate in 2004. The rate increased in 9 of the 12 UK countries and English regions, with a 1.4 percentage point increase across the UK. The largest increase was in London, followed by Northern Ireland and the North East.

    Before robust APS employment data became available in 2004, more volatile data from other sources suggests that the gap in employment rates between Wales and the UK was generally wider in the 1990s than in the period since devolution. The employment rate stabilised at around 69 per cent from the mid 2000s until the economic downturn in 2008/09, before falling to below 67 per cent in 2009 and remaining below that level until mid 2012. The employment rate then increased and remained fairly stable at around 69.5 per cent in 2014. The rate has since increased again to be 71.2 per cent for the year ending 31 December 2016.

    The trend observed in Wales is similar to the overall UK trend, with the gap narrowing somewhat over time. All UK countries and regions experienced a drop in the employment rate around 2008 as recession took hold. The employment rate in all countries and regions has now returned to or exceeded pre-recession rates, with rates in some areas recovering slightly quicker than in others.


    The chart shows a time series for Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the UK; and for the highest and lowest English regions.

    The data presented is sourced from the Annual Population Survey (APS). Official data on the labour market is also available from the Labour Force Survey, which is a timelier source of short term data. APS data benefits from having a larger sample size and more robust estimates, which provide more accurate data for analysing single points in time and medium/longer term trends.

    The next update, data for the year ending 31 March 2017, will include the annual re-weighting taking into consideration the latest population estimates. Welsh Economy in Numbers will be updated in due course.

  • Full-time weekly earnings

    Median gross weekly earnings for people working full-time in Wales and comparator regions as a proportion of the UK.
    UK rank
    12 UK regions countries
    UK = 100
    Change of Wales:UK on year
    Percentage points

    What is it?

    The standard measure to compare earnings from work is by analysing gross average (median) full-time weekly earnings. This considers earnings before deductions and includes people working more than 30 hours a week, or 25 for those in teaching.

    Current position

    In 2016, the average full time weekly earnings of people working in Wales were £492. Earnings in Wales were the second lowest amongst the 12 UK countries and English regions.

    Long term trend

    Wales saw the sixth largest percentage increase in median gross weekly earnings out of the UK countries and English regions between 1999 and 2016, up 55.4 per cent compared with a 55.9 percentage increase across the UK. The largest increase was in Scotland, followed by Northern Ireland, while the smallest increases were in the East Midlands and East of England.

    Changes in average weekly earnings in Wales have generally kept pace with the UK average over time.

    Since devolution, average weekly earnings in Wales have been around 90 per cent of the UK average. The largest gap between Wales and the UK occurred in 2008 when the economy was in recession. The trend observed for Wales is typical of the trend for most other regions and countries, albeit at different levels.

    High wages in London and the South East dominate the UK average to the extent that average earnings in all 10 other regions were below the UK average in 2016.


    The chart shows a time series for Wales, for Scotland, Northern Ireland and the UK; and for the two highest, and the lowest, English regions.

    Caution should be taken when analysing the time series as there are three discontinuities in the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) due to changes to the ASHE methodology.

    In 2004 supplementary information was included in the ASHE for the first time; in 2006 data from respondents with ‘special arrangements’ were treated as an extra stratum and occupations were coded using an automatic coding tool; and in 2011 the Standard Occupational Classification 2010 (SOC 2010) replaced the Standard Occupational Classification 2000 (SOC 2000).

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