Make UK/BDO annual report shows major jobs boost for South West manufacturers

Key findings

  • Industry accounts for over 10% of the South West economy overall
  • 249,000 manufacturing jobs in the South West in 2022, an increase of 28,000 since 2021
  • Manufacturing jobs account for 8% of the region’s total workforce
  • The South West accounts for 6% of the UK’s goods exports
  • The South West has a lower than average dependence on the EU market

A new report released today from Make UK, the manufacturers’ organisation, and accountancy and business advisory firm BDO LLP shows that manufacturing remains vital to the success of the economy in the South West, with the sector accounting for more than 10% (10.5%) of the region’s output.

The report also shows a major jobs boost for manufacturers in the region with the sector having added 28,000 new jobs in 2022 compared to 2021.

This is largely due to the exposure of the region to the transport sector (largely aerospace) which has seen a big recovery in passenger air miles since the pandemic, while the last twelve months has seen a spate of major aircraft orders, a trend which continued at the recent Paris Air Show with one Indian airline ordering 500 new aircraft alone.

The Transport (largely aerospace) sector accounts for over a fifth of manufacturing output in the South West (21%) followed by the Food and Drink sector (12.7%) and then Machinery Equipment (9.6%).

The South West is also a strong export performer although its share of exports to the EU  decreased in 2022 compared to 2021 (42% from 45%) and is lower than the UK average (52%). The next largest destination for South West goods is North America, accounting for a fifth of goods exports, closely followed by Asia & Oceania which accounts for almost a further fifth (19.7%) of exports.

Commenting, Jim Davison, Region Director for Make UK in the South West, said:

“Industry remains critical to the growth of the South West economy, providing high value, high skill jobs and aiding the process of levelling up. To build on this position we need a national industrial strategy which encompasses local growth strategies which fit with the priorities and strengths of the region including infrastructure, innovation and skills in particular.”

Matthew Sewell, Head of Manufacturing at BDO in the South West added:

“The manufacturing jobs growth we have seen in the South West across the last year is testament to the resilience of the sector as a whole. Manufacturing companies across the region have had to overcome the multiple challenges thrown up by Brexit, shortages in skilled labour, pandemic-related supply chain delays and the huge energy price rises we have seen following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. While everyone is hoping for some respite, the headwinds show no sign of abating. With high inflation and interest rates continuing to rise, manufacturers will need to remain alert, responsive and resilient in the face of any future geopolitical or economic shocks.”

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