The region is one of the UKs largest stretching from Land's End in the west to Swindon in the east and encompasses the counties of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire as well as the former county of Avon.
Service industries account for over three quarters of employment in the region, one of the highest proportions in the country.
More people are employed in tourism in the region than anywhere else in the UK.
The region has the oldest population in the UK with the highest proportion of residents over 60. More than one person in five is a pensioner and one in twenty is aged 80 or over.
Wiltshire experienced the biggest resident population growth of nine per cent, over twice the four per cent rise recorded in Avon between 1985 and 1995.
There are more resident females than males in the South West because women outnumber men amongst those aged 50 years and over.
According to the Spring 1996 Labour Force Survey, the South West had one of the lowest regional proportions of ethnic minority residents, just one per cent compared with the national average of six per cent.
Over the next decade the South West is projected to see an increase of 10 per cent or 227,000 in the labour force compared with a five per cent rise in the UK.
In 2006 it is estimated females will make up 46 per cent of both the region's and the UK's labour force - a rise of one percentage point over the decade in the South West and two points nationally.
-- Labour Market Trends (incorporating Employment Gazette) Volume 105 No 1. For subscription and sales telephone 0171 873 8499 FAX 0171 873 8222
The 12 per cent increase in those aged 16 and over in employment over the decade to Spring 1996, meant the South West was one of the fastest growing regions in the country with a rise from two million to 2.2 million.
Nearly 30 per cent of all those aged 16 and over in employment in the region in Spring 1996 worked part-time - the highest proportion in the country - compared with a national figure of 25 per cent.
Part-time employment increased in the South West by 14 per cent and nationally by eight per cent between 1992 and 1996.
In line with the trend in Great Britain, there has been a move away from manufacturing towards the service industries since 1986.
However the overall fall in employees in manufacturing in the 10 years to June 1996 was less pronounced in the South West (10 per cent) than in Great Britain (17 per cent).
In October 1996, the seasonally adjusted claimant unemployment rate in the South West was 5.9 per cent compared with 7.1 per cent for the UK.
Over the decade to October 1996 claimant unemployment in the South West has moved broadly in line with the national picture.
Cornwall had the highest claimant unemployment rate of 8.3 per cent while Wiltshire at 3.9 per cent, recorded the lowest in October 1996.
Average gross weekly full-time earnings in April 1996 were lower in the South West than nationally for both males -£365 compared with£392 - and females -£261 compared with£283.
Within the region, Cornwall recorded the lowest average gross weekly full-time pay for both males and females (£303 and£225 respectively).