There are 1.6 million more people in work today than there were in 2008, but that rise in employment has been anything but even. The regions of the UK have performed very differently from each other and the type of work we do is changing. The good news is that the South East, and in particular Brighton, comes out well on both counts.
Let’s start with the raw numbers of jobs. 2015 saw the economic recovery broaden out across the UK so that Yorkshire and the North West both managed to generate employment growth of over 3%, well above the 2% average across the UK.
The northern regions might have seen strong job creation in the last 12 months, but that hasn’t been the case all the way through this recovery. Comparing the number of people in employment today with its previous peak in 2008 shows us that the South East has managed a very creditable 4.5% rise. But London steals the show with a staggering 14.5% increase in the number of people in work. No other region comes close.
Along with London, the South East is home to the greatest concentration of high skilled jobs – which include accountants, doctors and nurses, lawyers, engineers, teachers, managers and directors. The importance of technology, innovation and enterprise can be seen in South East’s major university cities, with Oxford (63.7%), Brighton (58.6%) and Reading (54.8%) in the top five of UK cities with the highest proportion of high skilled workers.
In addition to these, the strong local economies and well educated workforces found in Woking and Basingstoke have them in the top 15 where more than 50% of their jobs are high skilled ones.
The increase in high skilled jobs has helped off set the significant reduction in the amount of low skilled workers during this period. The number of people in low skilled jobs – which includes sales & retail assistants, cleaners, lorry drivers, restaurant staff , taxi drivers and call centre workers – has dropped 6.7% in the South East since the start of the recession.
So what are the sort of jobs that are being created? Technology is changing the way we work. From online shopping to automated tills its influence on sectors like retail are clear to see. For occupations that are classed as low skill this technological influence often means less labour. Retail cashiers and check-out operators have seen some of the biggest falls in jobs numbers over recent years. Today there are fewer people employed in low skill jobs than there were eight years ago.
Better technology often means more data and more people needed to analyse and take decisions on the evidence. It also means lots of jobs for those involved in making the changes. That’s why IT specialists and project managers have seen such tremendous demand for their services.