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Labour Market Overview

Devon County Council is the largest local authority area in the South-West of England with a population of 811,640 in 2021.

It has eight districts. These are East Devon, Exeter, Mid Devon, North Devon, South Hams, Teignbridge, Torridge and West Devon. It is a predominately rural county, albeit with a number of significant urban settlements, the largest of which is Exeter. Devon also includes Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks, as well as five Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Plymouth and Torbay are within the ceremonial county of Devon, but are independent unitary authorities that are separate from Devon County Council administration. Where they are grouped in the data on this website, it is noted.

Many economic datasets are produced in arrears. A significant number of datasets reflect the pre COVID-19 economic situation, although when more recent data is available, we have provided this.

Total economic output in Devon County Council area was £18.5bn (2019), £2.5bn more than Bristol. It was £26.2bn combined with Plymouth and Torbay. The Devon economy grew slightly less than the national average, increasing by 19% from 2014 to 2019. Output per person was 77% of UK average in DCC area and 73% for Devon, Plymouth and Torbay combined.

There is significant variation between areas within Devon. Other main Devon headlines are:

  • The employment rate in Devon is slightly above the national average
  • Self-employment is much higher than nationally
  • There is a very high proportion of small and micro businesses in the County
  • Economic activity rates are around the national average, but inactivity is much higher for over 50s and has increased significantly since 2019
  • The Universal Credit Claimant Count (unemployment) is below the national average everywhere
  • Average earnings for Devon residents have been rising slightly faster than for the UK as a whole, but are on average well below the national average
  • Torridge, North Devon, Teignbridge and West Devon have among the lowest earnings in the UK (Average Gross Weekly Earnings: UK, £504.40; Devon, £443; West Devon £386.70)
  • Although levels of employment in Devon are high, many households are described as ‘Just About Managing’. Those able to access higher paid employment further afield, in growth sectors around Exeter, or better-off retired people have fared better.
  • Lower than average wages and lack of access to affordable housing, public transport and digital connectivity has a major impact on rural communities.
  • Housing is expensive: the housing affordability ratio in Devon is 10.4 compared to 8.5 nationally.
  • There are very high concentrations of Airbnb accommodation and second homes in some coastal communities such as Woolacombe, Salcombe and Dartmouth.
  • Compared to the rest of England, Devon has: a higher proportion people who can’t access mains gas; lower levels of social rented properties (outside of Exeter); higher levels of privately rented properties and lower levels of mortgaged properties.
  • There are areas of greater risk should mortgage rates rise around Cranbrook, parts of Exeter, Barnstaple, Tiverton, Cullompton, and Newton Abbot/Kingsteignton, particularly among younger first-time buyers.
  • The population of Devon is growing, but the working age population is declining as a share. By 2031 the proportion of over 65s is expected to increase from 26% to 29.7%. Nationally, the proportion of over 65s isn’t expected to reach 25% until 2048.
  • 6% of Devon’s working age population is qualified to NVQ level 3 equivalent or above and 39.1% to NVQ4, or above. These rates are similar to nationally, but with significant variation by location.

The economy of Devon has a broad sectoral base. In 2019 the core industries of Health, Retail and Tourism accounted for 43.1% of employment. Agriculture, Education, Manufacturing, Construction and Real Estate employment were also over-represented in Devon compared with nationally. Some shift in the composition of Devon’s economy is expected as a result of the impacts of COVID-19. There are expected to be significant impacts on Devon’s tourism and construction sectors, as a result of any recession. There are some significant growth opportunities particularly around the marine, green energy, digital and advanced manufacturing sectors.

Last Updated: 01/12/2022