Research Paper 38: Placing Labour Markets in the Evolution of Old Industrial Regions: the Case of Northern Rock


Stuart Dawley, Neill Marshall, Andy Pike, Jane Pollard and John Tomaney


Over the last decade or so, the notion that ‘history matters’ in understanding processes of economic growth and change has moved centre stage within economic geography research. Attention has focused on the ways in which the pre-existing industrial structure, technologies and institutions in a region or a locality influence their trajectories, whether a new industry develops there, and the ways in which existing industries and firms adapt to change. This paper contributes to the field by arguing for a better understanding of how local labour market contexts are integral causes in the processes and mechanisms of regional economic evolution. We explore how the rise and fall of new paths of growth around Northern Rock and financial services in the North East of England shaped, and were in part shaped by, the historically weak structure of the region’s labour market. By integrating analyses of major recruitment and redundancy episodes, we suggest that the North East suffers from a process of occupational disadvantage, limiting the region’s absorptive capacity and ability to diversify into more advanced and high-skilled paths of growth.