James Moore: North-South divide as big as ever despite recovery

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The Independent Online

Outlook Some positive news from Robert Walters, the recruiter, which said that hiring is finally beginning to pick up in cities such as Manchester and Birmingham where the talk of a "recovery" might have been greeted with a cynical sneer until recently.

It's only through an improvement in employment that the improvement in Britain's economy – and there was more about that from sources ranging from the IMF to the Institute of Directors yesterday – will start to be felt by the vast majority of Britons in terms of their standards of living.

So the news is welcome, but it shouldn't allow policy makers to indulge in complacency. The concept of "one nation" politicians like to bang on about is a myth. Economically the North and the South still might as well be on different sides of the planet.

Even though things are improving in the North, unemployment remains far higher, prosperity far lower, than in the South. In some places you can still buy a street full of houses for less than the price of a one-bedroom flat in central London.

And so people continue to move south because that is where the jobs are. Long term that's not good for the country as a whole. Nor is it sustainable.