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Strategic Evidence Base : People

Covering data on the population, labour market and health in the North East


This spotlight page explores the population of the North East, including their quality of life, education, skills and the regional labour market. 

The population in the North East is older than average and also slightly more likely to live in a rural area than England. While the population overall is more likely to live in deprived areas, the region does have below average levels of housing and living enviroment deprivation.

Economic inactivity and ill health are both higher than average in the North East, with economic inactivity growing significantly post Covid-19. Lower labour market participation has an impact on the levels of deprivation in the North East.

Population and geography

2 million

North East population


Population in rural areas


Expected population increase to 2048

The population of the North East has steadily increased since its trough in 2000, although growth has not been consistent across the whole area​. Population growth over the last decade has been at less than half the rate of national change, reflecting: lower net domestic and international migration and lower levels of births due to the older population​.

The proportion of the North East population which is of working age is smaller than the national average​. Although the population is expected to continue to grow, the working age population is set to fall in absolute terms over the next 25 years, with a big increase in the 65+ cohort. 

The North East has a slightly larger proportion of residents living in rural areas (21.1%) than England, excluding London (20.9%)​. In contrast, it also has 58% of its population living within a major conurbation (the Tyneside and Sunderland built up areas)​. The North East has a particularly high percentage of people living in rural towns and fringe areas (14.6% compared to 10.4%).

Quality of life measures


Proportion of North East employment in Health


North East employment in Manufacturing


report very high life satisfaction in the North East

Increasingly, a range of non-traditional economic indicators are used to provide a broader picture of economic, social and environmental conditions and quality of life​.

On the ‘Index of Multiple Deprivation’, the North East scores significantly worse than the national average on employment and health measures​. Education & skills and outcomes are also below national average​.

Crime rates are above England rates, including prevalence of violent crime which has been increasing since 2020​. In contrast, the North East scores above average for the quality of the living environment and housing​.

In some North East areas, there is a significant concentration of both deprivation and affluence, exacerbating inequalities and creating more polarised communities​.

25% of people report very high life satisfaction in the North East region, in line with the national average and above London and the South East.

Education and skills



How less likely North East FSM student are to achieve a good grade C in GCSE Maths and English​


16 and 17yr olds Not in Education, Employment and Training or activities unknown


Fewer than 25% workers have undertaken training in the last 3 months 

The North East has a higher proportion of residents with no formal qualifications than the national average, with the gap widening slightly in recent years​.

The number qualified to degree level is increasing, although the rate of improvement is slower than the rest of the country exc. London​.

Lower qualifications reflect both demographic factors (fewer young people and migrants who are typically more qualified) and lower attainment from education​.

Attainment is lower for those on Free School Meals and there are more children on Free School Meals in the North East​. Children on Free School Meals in the North East are less likely to achieve Maths and English qualifications than is the case nationally, reflecting impact of high concentrations of poverty and deprivation.​

Significant decline in proportion of workforce undertaking in-work training and this is now lower than the national average.

Labour market overview


total job adverts in the North East in Q4 of 2023:


of North East residents who are economically inactive are inactive due to ill-health


of Universal Credit Claimants have claims lasting 3 years or more:

The unemployment rate has fallen to below pre-pandemic levels and is at the lowest rate since records began 30 years ago, although pockets of high unemployment remain​. But economic inactivity has increased sharply since the pandemic and the rate is much higher than the national average​.

The rise in inactivity includes a big increase in the number of people who are unable to work due to poor (mental and physical) health.  There has also been an increase in the number of people retiring early​.

The employment rate in the North East area has been consistently below that of England excluding London​. The vacancy rate fell over 2023, with levels now around the pre-pandemic rate​.

Health and care jobs are in particular demand and, in addition, there are high levels of adverts for jobs in retail and hospitality, in science and technology and in the education sector​.

Job quality 


Weekly difference in median full time earnings between the North East and England


of North East region children living in relative poverty are in working households


of household spend in the North East region goes on transport

Median income in the North East is the joint lowest in the core cities, with income gaps being larger at the higher income levels​. The extent of part-time working in the North East is similar to nationally. Females are much more likely to work part-time​.

North East workers are more likely to be in non-permanent employment than nationally. The percentage has recently increased​​.

Employment rates in the North East are much lower for disabled residents, groups of ethnic minority and women. The extent and severity of deprivation is more common in the North East than nationally, particularly health and employment related deprivation.​

Wages have not increased in-line with prices, with the impact of the cost of living crisis greater on lower-income households​.

Households in the North East region spend a higher % of their income on food and transport, where price increases have been particularly high.


4 yrs

Lower healthy life expectancy compared to England


In the number of school sessions missed due to illness amongst NECA pupils since 2012/13​


of North East region year 6 pupils were considered obese in 2022/23:

There is a significant gap in healthy life expectancy between the North East and national average for both men and women and an even greater gap between communities in the North East​.

Poor health in the North East contributes to lower life expectancy, with contributory factors including above average tobacco and alcohol consumption, and effects of childhood obesity above the national average​.

The North East Region has one of the highest sickness absence rates of all English regions over the last five years, with the North East region taking 1.2 days more leave per worker than the England average​.

Prevalence of common mental health disorders in the North East is 2nd highest after London and is on the rise.

Further data

North East strategic evidence base

Read about the overall context behind our strategic evidence base


Read about what the evidence tells us about the core economic indicators in the North East


Read about the geography of the North East and the distribution of housing and other infrastructure