The administrative county of Somerset is in the South West of England. It borders Gloucestershire and Bristol to the north, Wiltshire to the east, Dorset to the south-east and Devon to the south-west.
It is comprised of four district authority areas: Mendip, South Somerset, Sedgemoor and the more recently created Somerset West and Taunton (previously the two separate authorities of West Somerset and Taunton Deane).
Somerset is within the Heart of the South West (HotSW) Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) area, along with 15 other local authorities and two national parks.
In 2017, Somerset’s total population was 555,195; an increase of 3,749 (0.7%) since the previous year. Between 2017 and 2036, Somerset’s population is expected to grow by 10.6%, to a total of 613,823. Population growth in Somerset is entirely accounted for by inward migration from elsewhere in the UK.
Somerset’s population is ageing and at a faster rate than is the case nationally. In 2017, 24.2% of Somerset’s population was aged over 65 years, up from 19.8% in 2007. Projections suggest that by 2036 nearly one third of the population in Somerset will be 65 or over. Meanwhile, Somerset’s working age population is set to decrease.
Somerset is distinctively rural and relies heavily on its market towns for employment and services. According to ONS census data from the 2011, 48.2% of Somerset’s population live in rural areas, making it one of the ten most rural authorities in England.
In 2016, Somerset’s economy was worth almost £11.4bn in Gross Value Added (GVA) terms. The Somerset economy has grown consecutively by about 1.9% each year over the last seven years, following a period of contraction after the 2006/7 financial crisis and subsequent economic downturn.
In 2016, labour productivity in Somerset was £50,460 measured in terms of GVA per full-time equivalent (FTE) job. This is slightly higher than the average for the Heart of the South West (HotSW) Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) area of £49,690, but notably lower than the national average of £57,700. As is the case nationally, and indeed internationally, productivity growth has been largely flat for the last 10 years.
To an even greater extent than is the case nationally, Somerset is a predominantly small business economy, both in terms of employee numbers and business turnover. In 2018, 99.8% of businesses in Somerset employed fewer than 250 employees, with 89.6% of those employing fewer than 10 people. Meanwhile, 86% had a turnover less than £500,000, 73% had a turnover less than £200,000, and 19.4% had a turnover less than £50,000.
Between 2014 and 2018, the rate of growth in the number of businesses was smaller in Somerset (8.4%) than was the case nationally (17.9%). If we exclude agriculture and public administration from the picture then the growth rate disparity is even greater. That said, business survival rates are notably higher tin Somerset than they are nationally, especially beyond their first year of doing business.
Somerset performs comparatively well on figures pertaining to its workforce, with higher levels of employment (79.6%) and lower levels of unemployment (2.9%) and economic inactivity (18%) than is typically found both regionally and nationally.
Unemployment is significantly higher for females than males in Somerset, whereas at the national level the unemployment rate is broadly similar for both sexes. Meanwhile, economic inactivity is only slightly higher for females than males in Somerset despite a much greater disparity at the national level.
At £27,503, median annual full-time earnings in Somerset are lower than they are both regionally and nationally, and if we include part-time work, of which there is a greater prevalence in Somerset, then the disparity is greater yet. There is also a significant difference between earnings for males and females in Somerset, especially for full-time work, and to an even greater extent than is the case regionally and nationally.
The 2019 Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) reveals Somerset to be 92nd out of 151 top-tier local authority areas in terms of deprivation, where 1 is the most deprived and 151 is the least deprived. Of the varius components of the IMD, Somerset scores worst (57th out of 151) on barriers to housing and services and best on crime (116th out of 151). Across Somerset there are 9 LSOAs, or neighbourhoods, within the most deprived 10% of neighbourhoods in England and 29 within the most deprived 20%.
Data for 2017 shows that Somerset performs above the national average on the qualification levels of its residents, with the exception of NVQ4+ (i.e. higher-level) qualifications. 34.3% of working age residents are qualified to this level compared to compared to the national average of 38.4%.
The majority of young people succeed in education and make a positive transition to adult life and the world of work, but a small proportion do not and become NEET (not in education, employment or training). In Somerset roughly 8.8% of 16-18 year olds are thought to be NEET.
 Much of the district data and analyses presented on this website reflect the prior five authority areas within Somerset due to a lag in the availability of statistics for the more recently formed Somerset West and Taunton Council. It is likely that most future updates will present data for this new authority area only. Consideration will be made of the statistical implications of this merging for our understanding of local specificities and longitudinal trends in historic data.