Revealed: the best and the worst performers during the UK slump

Which parts of the British economy would you suppose have fared best, and worst, during the recession? It’s a subject worth dwelling on ahead of tomorrow’s GDP release.

There are a few obvious guesses. We all know, for instance, that finance, the City, has had a torrid time. However, it turns out it’s far from the worst performer. And although estate agents have had a comparatively rosy recession, they were completely outdone by a number of other, more unexpected sectors.

For it turns out that the part of the economy which has grown the most between the beginning of the country-wide recession and today is the forestry and logging sector. While the total UK economy is some 3.3% smaller than it was at the start of 2008, the forestry sector has expanded by a whopping 36.2%.

The sector is, admittedly, small, and its performance is bound far more by longer-term agricultural cycles. However, its striking performance is an unexpected good news story for Britain over the course of the crisis.

And it isn’t the only one. Those who repair household goods and computers have seen their incomes (well, gross value added to give it its technical term) jump by more than a quarter.

The past few years have been similarly positive for the “employment activities” sector, which has swelled 22.4% since early 2008. The strength of the recruitment sector is a counterpart to the fact that this recession has seen hardly as big an increase in unemployment as happened in previous recessions.

Estate agents, by comparison, have enjoyed a 13.3% increase in their economic output since 2008. A punchy number by any standards.

The sectors which have done the worst over the past five years are similarly counterintuitive. The part of the economy which, in terms of gross value added, has suffered the biggest contraction since the first quarter of 2008 is none other than postal & courier activities, the sector dominated by the recently-privatised Royal Mail. It has shrunk by a disturbing 36.9% since the beginning of the recession. The mining and quarrying sector also shrank by more than a third.

By comparison, the banking industry has shrunk by a not-insignificant 16.8%.

All the figures are from the Office for National Statistics.


Best sectors (cumulative growth in GVA since Q1 2008)

Forestry and logging   36.2%

Computers & household goods repair   25.3%

Employment activities, recruitment    22.4%

Telecommunications    22%

Health   17.49%

Estate agency   13.3%


Worst sectors (cumulative change in output since Q1 2008)

Postal & courier activities   -36.9%

Mining & quarrying   -35.4%

Travel agencies   -29.1%

Transportation & Storage   -17.7%

Banking, finance (ex insurance)   -16.8%

Pension funding   -14.7%