The Welsh economy is the fastest growing by region in the UK after the southeast and the northeast of England - but also the poorest per head, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.

Figures based on the Gross Value Added (GVA) measure, which weighs the increase in the value of an economy on the production of goods and services, showed that the economy in Wales was growing faster than that of most other regions in the UK.

GVA is measured at current basic prices and includes inflation but excludes taxes such as value added tax.

GVA growth per head in Wales in 2012 was 1.6%, said the ONS, behind the southeast of England's 2.5% and the northeast of England's 1.7%.

The Secretary of State for Wales David Jones said that the figures were evidence that chancellor George Osborne's efforts to rebalance the British economy were working.

"The GVA figures show that our efforts to rebalance the UK economy are bearing fruit and that Wales is benefiting from this government's economic policies," he said.

"It is encouraging that over the last year the gap in GVA per head in Wales has narrowed in comparison to the UK average."

However, the figures also revealed a bleaker picture of Wales compared to more prosperous parts of the UK.

In 2012, Wales had the lowest GVA per head of just £15,401 (€18,278, $25,240) while London had the largest at £37,232.

Similarly, the figures showed that Wales experienced a steep decline in what manufacturing contributed to its economy as a region from 1997 to 2011.

In 1997, manufacturing as a share of total GVA in Wales was 25.3%. By 2011 it was 16.8%.

Jones acknowledged that there was still work for the government to do but Osborne's Autumn Statement was focused on doing the right thing for Welsh economy, he added.

"Wales does continue to have the lowest GVA in UK, and has held that unenviable position for well over a decade. All our efforts - both within the UK and Welsh governments - must be focused on changing that."