SOUTHAMPTON'S workers make £40.04 an hour for the UK's economy, figures published for the first time reveal.

It means the area's workforce is much more productive than the average across the country – but still leaves it a long way behind some parts of London.

A leading policy thinktank said the “productivity output gap” is one of the biggest challenges facing the British economy.

New figures from the Office for National Statistics show Southampton had a gross value added of £40.04 per hour worked in 2018.

It was an increase of 3% on 2017, and means the area is above the UK average of £35.03 per hour.

GVA is the final value of the goods and services produced in an area and is used to measure contribution to the national economy.

The South East as a whole has an average GVA of £37.80, making it the second-most productive region in Britain, after London.

However, Southampton lags behind ​Runnymede (£62.74) and some other parts of the South East – along with many areas in the capital.

The borough of Hounslow was named the most productive place in Britain, with a GVA per hour of £63.24.

These figures suggest the west London borough is more than three times as productive for the economy as the Welsh county of Powys.

Paul Swinney, director of policy and research at urban policy research unit Centre for Cities, said: “The productivity output gap between northern and southern cities is one of the biggest challenges facing the British economy.

“While cities and large towns in south-eastern England are among the most productive places in Europe, those in the north lag far behind and, as a result, it takes someone in Wigan a full working week to produce what it takes someone in Westminster just two and a half days.

“Addressing this disparity should be central to the Government’s levelling up agenda. Transport investment within big cities will be important, and so will spending on adult education to upskill the workforce.”

The ONS says that areas with high labour productivity will usually be home to a major manufacturing site or a large utility sector, and those with low productivity are typically more rural or isolated places.

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “This Government remains absolutely committed to the Northern Powerhouse and levelling up growth across the whole country to drive productivity, empower communities and rebalance opportunity.

“Alongside Local Industrial Strategies agreed with local business and civic leaders, we are committed to investing record levels in research and development throughout the UK and supporting local innovation through our £236 million Strength in Places fund.”