Berwick, Alnwick and Hexham are the self-employment hotspots of the region, new research shows.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released last week show a 20,000 rise in the number of North East people now working for themselves.
In the last decade, the number of self-employed people in the region has risen to 114,100 from 92,500 and this 17.5% increase is second only in the UK to London’s 18.4% rise.
In Berwick and Alnwick 16.3% of the working age population are now self-employed, a total of 7,300 people, ONS figures show. Hexham follows closely with 15.4% or 6,600 people being their own boss - which is well above the regional average of 6.7%.
However, in the former heavy industrial areas of North Durham there has been a fall from almost 7% to less than 4%, with almost 3,500 fewer people now self employed.
Other former industrial areas of the region, such as Durham City, Blaydon, South Tyneside and East Durham have shown strong self-employment growth, albeit it from a low base.
Last week’s ONS figures from Annual Population Survey show that the North East still has the lowest number of self-employed people in the UK at 6.7%.
London is at the top with 12.2% followed by the South East, South West and East of the country, all at over one in 10 of the working population working for themselves.
The North East figures were compiled by the Newcastle office of national planning and economics consultancy Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners (NLP).
NLP economist and associate director Ross Lillico said: “The increases in self-employment in Berwick, Alnwick and Hexham have been impressive and demonstrate the previously known trend that rural areas often benefit from a stronger entrepreneurial culture.
“However the rate of growth is surprising, highlighting once again how attitudes to employment in the North East seem to be changing with more and more people looking to go it alone rather than work for someone else.
“A range of factors could be responsible for the strong levels of self-employment observed in locations such as Hexham, Berwick and Alnwick. Self-employment and a move to attractive rural or semi-rural communities are sometimes pursued in tandem as part of a complete lifestyle change and the ability to work from home has been enhanced by broadband roll out across rural areas.
“The phenomenon may also be driven in some instances by necessity, rather than choice, with those made redundant in rural locations perhaps more likely to be limited in their options to get back into employment.”
The fall in self-employment in the towns of North Durham, such as Stanley and Consett may be a legacy of their industrial past, which had been dominated by heavy industry and coal mining, he said.
Mr Lillico added: “The economic heritage of the North East’s towns and cities, where the population has historically been dependent upon a small number of large employers, is unlikely to have fostered a strong entrepreneurial culture.”
The ONS says the most common self-employed roles in the UK in construction, taxi driving and joinery and in recent years there have been increases in self-employed management consultants.
Nationally 4.6m people work for themselves in the UK, or 15% of the total numbers employed. That proportion is at a 40-year high, however, the average income of self-employed workers has slumped by 22% since the beginning of the recession.