The West Midlands has the highest wages in England outside the South East and East, new research shows.

The region has overtaken the North West and South West for median wages over the past decade – however, it was ultimately a drop in the ocean as the salary gap with the South East continues to grow.

Researchers found the median wage in the West Midlands rose by 42.3 per cent between 2000 and 2013, from £17,812 to £25,341.

The rise meant the West Midlands climbed above the North West and South West to fifth on the UK list of median wages, behind London, the South East, the East and Scotland.

A major Office for National Statistics study of wage levels between 1997 and 2013 shows a worsening north-south divide, with wages rising in London and the South East rising more than elsewhere.

The data showed there was a 45.6 per cent increase in the capital across the 13-year period, with median wages standing at £35,238.

Mary Hendry, managing director of recruitment firm Key Personnel in the city centre, said she believed the data showed that efforts to focus on wealth-generating industries were paying off.

The city’s principal focus is on advanced manufacturing, digital and professional services, as part of plans to upskill and grow wealth.

Ms Hendry said: “Yes, you have got Jaguar Land Rover, but that is not the be all and end all. The life sciences and gaming industries seem to have really grown in this part of the country, which means more jobs for creative and technical people, which drives wages up.

“There is also a big professional services industry here, with lots of legal and finance firms.”

The Patterns Of Pay research shows that the lowest-paying part of the UK is Northern Ireland, with the North East slipping below Wales as the second-lowest.

In 2000 Londoners earned an average of £24,204 a year – £5,356 more than the national average – whereas in 2013 they were paid an average of £35,238 a year – £8,221 more than the national average.

Mrs Hendry added: “The focus has been on keeping your graduates. If you think about the last 15 years, graduates have continued to graduate towards London because there has been so much opportunity there.

“It is very early days but the landscape in the West Midlands, and the types of businesses, is definitely changing and it will impact on graduate retention.”