The ONS Labour Market Statistics released the other day show a jobs market in rude health, with record employment levels and an unemployment rate at the lowest level known for 40 years. After years of consistent good news in terms of the number of jobs, it’s no surprise that commentary focuses increasingly on the prolonged stagnation and decline of real wages since the start of the recession.
But if the jobs market has been buoyant nationally, it doesn’t always follow that it has at local level – here there can be different stories, which relate not only to the effects of recession, but the long term shift in demographics, industry and working patterns which can transform Britain’s economic geography. To begin to shed a little light on this, I thought I’d run some numbers on where employment has been growing, comparing the number of jobs in 2016 to those at the pre-recession peak in 2007. By looking at the longer term shift, we can see past the effects of specific and often transient successes and failures.
The data here are pretty simple — we’re just counting the number of jobs in 2016 and comparing them with 2007, for every local authority district in Great Britain. The numbers are from Emsi data: derived from the official sources like the Business Register and Employment Survey, but engineered to allow for much greater local exploration.
So first off, where are the Top 10 districts for jobs growth since 2007?
In geographic terms, there’s a strong bias to London and the South East and stretching, but not uniquely so — Bolsover comes in fourth, and the Shetlands at seventh. Looking under the headline numbers, some interesting patterns emerge, with Watford’s growth powered by its creative, professional and commercial services industries; Tower Hamlets gains from financial and legal services while Bolsover’s growth is in business services and logistics. Newham and Hackney stand out for the large role retail and other consumer services have played in their growth.
Looking at the bottom 10, the geography differs markedly — a number of districts are Scottish, but the others are spread across England; several across the north of England, but also Rutland in the Midlands and Hart down in Hampshire:
For Richmondshire and Wyre with the sharpest declines, public sector contraction has hit hard — a similar story in Inverclyde, although with an additional marked fall in financial services employment. These areas all had high levels of concentration in these sectors, and so when these sectors have seen disruptive changes, the areas have felt the consequences for local jobs.
What about the rest of the country? There is something of a pattern here, as the interactive map below shows: strong growth across most of London and the South East and stretching into East Anglia, with a more varied pattern elsewhere — islands of growth here or there, be they Aberdeenshire, across East and West Yorkshire or along the M6 corridor in the Midlands. (You can zoom in to find any district on the map; hover over it and you’ll find out the growth and net change in jobs for that district).
As the differences in the industry growth patterns of the fastest-growing areas show, long-term growth in jobs can be driven by a range of factors, not just limited to industries growing and declining. The fastest-growing areas are often adding jobs not just because of the cutting edge industries selling to customers across Britain and internationally, but also because of population growth locally, creating jobs to serve local needs. Understanding the mix between industries, and their links to underlying ‘pull’ factors which shape growth, is critical to understanding the future path of the labour market, and how best to expand opportunity.