This page brings together some of the main indicators detailing the economy in County Durham and provides a summary of the economic factsheets on this site with additional supporting information publicly available.

Linking Economic Data: Advice

Drawing links and conclusions between the datasets detailed below must be carried out with caution as they are derived using different methodologies, cover different populations, and cover different time periods.

  • Business enterprises are derived from the Inter Departmental Business Register (IDBR) (via NOMIS) which records the number of enterprises that were live at a reference date in March. Latest data is for 2020.
  • Job numbers are derived from a sample survey of businesses extracted from the IDBR above (via NOMIS). Latest data is for 2019.  As these estimates use an extract from the IDBR they can be linked.
  • Employment statistics are estimates from the Annual Population Survey (APS) (via NOMIS). This survey is carried out quarterly with figures released on a rolling year average.  The sample size for Great Britain is around 223,000 households and within County Durham it is 1,200 to 1,300 households.  The latest period covers April 2020 to March 2021.
  • Gross Value Added (GVA), are estimates of the increase in the value of the economy due to the production of goods and services. Latest data is for 2019.
  • Gross Domestic household Income (GDHI) are estimates of amount of money that all of the individuals in the household sector have available for spending or saving after income distribution measures (for example, taxes, social contributions and benefits) have taken effect. Latest data is for 2018.

All of the above indicators are produce by or on behalf of the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

For example, linking changes in employment levels and GDHI cannot be made directly due to the differing methodologies and time periods they cover.  Inferences can be made by comparing similar time periods, GDHI 2017 with employment rates for Jan 2017 – Dec 2017, for example and looking back over the available time-series.  However, this can only be done with caveats explaining the differences in the methodologies used.


Durham Insight Page: APS Employment

Current Rate: 72.3% (233,400 people) (April 2020 to march 2021)

Estimates of employment rates are taken from the Annual Population Survey (APS) data produced by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) which is available down to the local authority level, (data is available for Parliamentary Constituencies).

Note: As these are estimates from a sample survey there is a possibility that some of the increases detailed in this report are due to random sampling variation, although the increases do fall within the estimated confidence intervals for these estimates.

The following dashboard provides more detail.  Click on the 3 dots in the top right corner of the dashboard to view full screen or download.

Economic Inactivity & Unemployment

Durham Insight Page: Economic Inactivity

Economic Inactivity Current: 23.1% (74,600 people) (April 2020 to march 2021)

Unemployment Current: 6% (14,900 people) (April 2020 to march 2021)

The economically inactive are defined as people who are not unemployed and are not in employment. (Unemployed refers to people without a job who were available to start work in the two weeks following their interview and who had either looked for work in the four weeks prior to interview or were waiting to start a job they had already obtained.).

These individuals are not currently a part of the labour supply but are important as they may enter the labour supply in the future.

Since 2004 levels of economic inactivity have been greater in County Durham than in in England & Wales, with a downward trend over this period.

The latest data (April 2020 to march 2021) shows nearly that nearly one in four people aged 16 to 64 in the county were economically inactive (23%1/74,600 people), a fall from a 12-year peak mid-recession high of 29.5% (96,500 people, April 2009 to March 2010).  Corresponding figures for the North East and England & Wales were 24%/27.0% and 20.9%/23.6% respectively

The following dashboard provides more detail.  Click on the 3 dots in the top right corner of the dashboard to view full screen or download.

Claimant Count

Durham Insight Page: Claimant Count

Current: 5.1% (16,795 people) (August 2021)

Between December 2019 and March 2020, the overall claimant count in County Durham remained relatively stable at around the 3.9% level and on average, 1 percentage points higher than the national average.  However, the recent consequences of the COVID19 pandemic and the resulting lock-down measures that have been required, saw the claimant count rate rise rapidly from 4% in March 2020 to 6.5% in in the summer of 2020.  This has now fallen to 5.1% in the latest release.  Currently there are an estimated 16,795 people, aged 16 to 64, claiming these benefits in County Durham.

Similar increases can be seen in the number of younger people now claiming these benefits with an increase from 6.1% in March 2020 to 9.7% in September 2021.  This has now fallen to 8% in the latest release. there an estimated 3,375 young people currently claiming these benefits in County Durham.

The following dashboard provides further detail on this dataset.  Click on the 3 dots in the top right corner of the dashboard to view this in full screen.

Businesses: Overall

Durham Insight Page: Business Factsheet

Current: 14,105 businesses (2020)

ONS Business counts data reflects snapshot data showing the number active businesses. Latest ONS estimates of the number of active enterprises show there were 14,105 active enterprises in County Durham in 2020, equivalent to 266 businesses per 10,000 population, significantly lower than the England & Wales average (420 per 10,000 population) and similar to the North East average (268).

This is a net increase of 310 (2.2%) businesses since 2019, a lower than regional (1.4%) and national (1.2%) increases.  Between 2010 and 2014 there was very little growth in business numbers (365), however between 2014 and 2015 there was a marked increase of 1,230.

Note: These changes should be interpreted with caution as it may not reflect any pattern of significant underlying growth because ONS changed their methodology as to what counts as a business.

Businesses: Survivals

Durham Insight Page: Business Factsheet

The ONS data also provides details around the survival rates of new enterprises. The first release in 2016 covers enterprise births for the years 2010 to 2014 and provides survival rates up to 2015.  Of the 1,130 new enterprises ‘born’ in 2010, 57.5% (650) survived into their third year falling to 41.2% (465) for the fifth year.

Survival rates in the county were slightly higher than across the region and England & Wales in the third year (57.3% and 57.1% respectively) and remained higher than the region after five years (40.7%) but slightly lower than nationally (41.4%).

The 1,305 enterprises ‘born’ in 2011 in the county had a higher survival rate in the third year than those ‘born’ in 2010 of 58.6% (765) but a lower rate by the fifth year of 40.6% (530).  However, the region and England & Wales not only had higher survival rates for these periods than the county (59.4%/42.6% and 60.4%/44.0% respectively), but survival rates improved for the fifth year of the time series.

The latest release of this data in 2020 extends the period to include births in 2019 and the survival rate to 2019.  This now allow analysis for 2014 births for a five-year period which gives a consistent picture of survival rates in their third year for enterprises ‘born’ between 2010 and 2016.

This data shows that three year survival rates across the county steadily increased from 57.5% in 2010 to 61.6% in 2014 (survivals to the year 2017) but have now fallen back to 57.3% in 2016 (survivals to the year 2019) and that they are higher than those across the region (57.3% in 2010 to 54.7% in 2016) and England & Wales (57.1% in 2010 to 51.6% in 2016).

Businesses: Industry

Durham Insight Page: Business Factsheet

The survey also provides business estimates by industrial sector as classified by the Standard Industrial Classification of Economic Activities for 2007 (SIC2007) which classifies business establishments and other standard units by the type of economic activity in which they are engaged.  The estimates in this section are taken from the broad SIC2007 classification of twenty one different sections.  To simplify this further these are then mapped to the Business and Enterprise Framework Groups (nine in total) used by the County Durham Economic Partnership’s Business Enterprise Framework, detailed below:

Business and Enterprise Framework Groups

Agriculture, forestry and fishing
Distribution; transport; accommodation and food; Information and communication
Financial and insurance activities
Real estate activities; Business service activities
Public administration; education; health
Other services and household activities

Gross Value Added (GVA)

Durham Insight Page: GVA Factsheet

Current: £8,972 million (16.2% of the North East total) (2019)

Gross Value Added (GVA) represents the value of goods and services produced in an area, industry or sector of an economy. ONS GVA is one of the most important indicators of regional economic performance and it is regularly used to demonstrate the economic activity of commercial and non-commercial organisations.

GVA is a measure of how much a sub-national or local economy produces over a given time period.

Total GVA in County Durham in 2018 was £8,972 million, representing 16.2% of the total North East GVA and the second highest proportion out of the seven North East ITL3 areas (Tyneside was higher at £20,194 million).  However, this is an increase from 2018 of 3.2%.  The Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees ITLS3 area had the highest increase in GVA of 4.4% with Sunderland experiencing the smallest increase of 0.6% from 2019.

ITL – UK International Territorial Level

Gross Value Added (GVA): Per Filled Job

Durham Insight Page: GVA Factsheet

Current: £45,602 pa (96% of the North East total) (2019)

Both the County Durham and North East economies are growing at a slower rate than the national economy, meaning that year-on-year the gap is growing.

In 2019, GVA per Filled Job in County Durham was £45,602, the fifth lowest in the region and this is an increase of 0.8% from 2018.  Regionally, Sunderland has the highest GVA per Filled Job at £56,843, with Northumberland having the lowest at £41,757.  County Durham GVA per Filled Job has increased by 31.1% since 2004.

GVA per Filled Job in County Durham is currently 80.5% of the England value and 96% of the North East Value.

The County’s under-performance is a result of the high proportion of people of working age who are not working and also by lower value jobs in County Durham.

Gross Domestic Household Income (GDHI)

Durham Insight Page: GDHI Factsheet

Current: £8,717 million (19.3% of the North East total) (2018)

Gross Disposable Household Income (GDHI) is the amount of money that all of the individuals in the household sector have available for spending or saving after they have paid direct and indirect taxes and received any direct benefits. GDHI is a concept that is seen to reflect the “material welfare” of the household sector.

GDHI is important as it gives an indication of the standard of living and monetary well-being of people.

Total GDHI in County Durham in 2018 was £8,717 million, representing 19.3% of the total North East GDHI and the highest proportion out of the twelve North East authorities.  This is a rise from 2017 of 4.8%.  North Tyneside had the highest increase in GDHI of 5.7% with Middlesbrough experiencing the smallest increase of 1.4% from 2017.

Gross Domestic Household Income (GDHI): Per Head of Population

Durham Insight Page: GDHI Factsheet

Current: £16,542 pa (2018)

By dividing total GDHI by the resident population an estimate of value for each person in the county can be derived, instead of household in overall GDHI.

In 2018, County Durham had a GDHI per Capita of £16,542 (2.7% below the North East total GDHI per Capita value of £16,995), however, this is a rise of 4.2% from 2017.  Regionally, Northumberland has the highest GDHI at £20,437 per head, (20.3% higher than the North East total GDHI per head), with Middlesbrough having the lowest at £15,469 per Captia.  County Durham is ranked fifth out of the twelve local authority areas in the North East.  County Durham has seen an increase in GDHI per head of 41.6% since 2004.

Zero Hour Contracts

Source: Office for National Statistics (ONS) Labour Force Survey

Current Estimate: 7,700 jobs (December 2020)

Data is only available down to the regional level.  The latest release is extracted from the ONS Labour Force Survey .

Key Messages:

  • It is estimated that around 40,400 people (aged 16 to 64) in employment were on zero-hour contracts in the North East representing 3.4% of all people in employment, (down from 47,100/3.9% in December 2019).
  • If we assume a similar percentage are on these contracts across the county and use the latest Annual Population Survey results, an estimate of 7,700 people in the county are on zero-hour contracts.  However, as this estimate assumes an even distribution across NE authorities and uses a sample survey for the estimate of people in employment this figure must be used with caution.


Factsheet: Jobs Factsheet

Current: 182,800 jobs (2019)

There were an estimated 182,800 jobs in the county in 2019, 4,700 more than estimated in 2018 (a rise of 2.7%).  Regionally the number of jobs increased by 1.9% while nationally there was an increase of 1.2%.

Between 2010 and 2019 there was stronger growth in the number of jobs in the county than there had been regionally with an increase of 9.4% (15,700 additional jobs) compared to 5.5% regionally.

Demand for Jobs

In 2019 there were over 25,006 jobs postings in County Durham, of which 3,500 were in Health Care and Nursing professions, or 14% of all postings.  This is the highest proportion out of all the groupings in the dataset, with Education & training coming second with just over 2,700 posts representing 11% of all postings.  The following table details these posting by group.

Group Postings % of total
Total 25,006
Health Care including Nursing 3,500 14.00%
Education and Training 2,740 10.96%
Business Management and Operations 1,884 7.53%
Engineering 1,675 6.70%
Sales 1,466 5.86%
Manufacturing and Production 1,370 5.48%
Clerical and Administrative 1,257 5.03%
Hospitality, Food, and Tourism 1,281 5.12%
Information Technology 1,232 4.93%
Community and Social Services 1,120 4.48%
Construction, Extraction, and Architecture 1,002 4.01%
Finance 914 3.66%
Maintenance, Repair, and Installation 724 2.90%
Transportation 576 2.30%
Customer and Client Support 573 2.29%
Law, Compliance, and Public Safety 510 2.04%
Human Resources 448 1.79%
Planning and Analysis 424 1.70%
Science and Research 368 1.47%
Marketing and Public Relations 310 1.24%
Design, Media, and Writing 219 0.88%
Other 1,413 5.65%
Source: Labour Insight Jobs (Burning Glass Technologies)

Quality of Jobs

Source: Annual Population Survey (via NOMIS)

As highlighted above, the County’s employment rate has increased substantially and is now close to the national average. However, this does not represent the quality of jobs in the County.

Since 2004 the percentage of people employed in County Durham in higher level occupations (such as directors, managers, professionals and semi-professionals), has slowly increased from 10.7% to 14.7% but this proportion is still lower than national levels which increased from 13.4% to 16.9% over the same period.  In addition, the gap between the county and England & Wales has remained the same at around 2.2 percentage points.

Between 2004 and 2019 the percentage of people in employment in the county with higher level qualifications (NVQ4+) increased from 23.2% to 32.2%, however, as the chart below shows, the national rate has also increased (from 25.9% to 42.8%), and the gap between the county and England & Wales has also increased from 2.7 percentage points to 10.6 points.

In contrast, at other qualifications levels, (for example GCSEs, A-levels, and those with no qualifications), the County has converged with the national averages. The only part of the County that has a higher proportion of residents with degree level qualifications than the national average is the Durham City area – all other parts of the County are below the national rate. The implications are that the County remains vulnerable to economic downturns, automation, and the relocation of higher quality jobs elsewhere.

Looking at the trend over time the county has remained behind the national levels for people employed in higher-level occupations and with higher-level qualifications and the gaps are widening.

Jobs Below the Living Wage

Source:  Office for National Statistics (ONS) – Bespoke Analysis of the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) Dataset

Following an ad-hoc request to the Office for national Statistics on estimates of people earning less than the Living Wage Foundation hourly rates (£9.50 in 2021 outside London), a dataset was published on the ONS website.  Note: That the data included may not be suitable for all analytical purposes as they were produced in response to an ad hoc request and it is possible that a revision could occur to the data.

These estimates suggest that nearly one in three employees in County Durham are earning less than the current living wage foundation rate of £9.50, (31.3%/25,000 employees).  Across England the proportion was 24.4%.

Further information is available in the infographic on the Average Earnings (Wages) page.

Research & Development Investment

Source:  Office for National Statistics (ONS) –Estimates of R&D Investment 2017

The R&D investment data shows that England, NE have the highest investment coming from businesses followed by higher education, whereas County Durham has the majority coming from Higher education i.e Durham University, with business investment the next highest.

This demonstrates a low business R&D investment compared to national figures with the overall being artificially supported by the universities.

County Durham also has low government R&D investment and high Private Non-profit R&D investment as a proportion of the total local investment.

Investment per capita shows County Durham is extremely low at £185.6 compared to £554.5 in England, possibly due to the cheap R&D costs in universities and a higher proportion of that in the county.  The following tables summarises this dataset.