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Report reveals Leeds and Manchester among strongest Powerhouse performers

23rd Jun 2022

With two months of negative growth and UK inflation at a 40-year high, the news that Leeds and Manchester are among the top performers for GVA and job creation is particularly welcome to businesses like ours based in the north.

While eight of the top 10 fastest growing cities in the UK by the end of next year are expected to be located in the South and East of England, Leeds will be one of the few northern cities to improve in terms of employment growth.

The Irwin Mitchell UK Powerhouse Report Spring/Summer 22 predicted Leeds will go from 9th in the table in Q4 2021 to 6th place by the close of 2023 with 2%   year-on-year growth and 19,200 new jobs created.

This follows a 3.5%   increase in employment in 2021, driven by a construction sector buoyed by developments including student accommodation and office space in Leeds city centre and the redevelopment of the British Library facility in nearby Boston Spa.

Responding to the report, The Guardian highlighted the city’s growing reputation for start-ups and innovation in healthcare, financial and legal services, manufacturing and retail, which has seen the Bank of England and the Financial Conduct Authority opening offices there, and the new UK infrastructure bank choosing Leeds for its HQ.

Bryan Bletso, partner and Head of International at Irwin Mitchell, said: “Leeds continues to deliver a consistent performance in the UK Powerhouse report. Its employment prospects continue to stand out, which makes good reading for the future of the city and the West Yorkshire region.

“This comes despite the loss of the HS2 connection which, while a blow to the construction industry, is not expected to dent employment prospects in the medium term.”

It is also very good news for Manchester, one of the strongest performers in Q4 2021 with year-on-year growth of 6.9%   – placing it 6th of the 50 powerhouse cities. A 4.4%   increase in employment – up 28,000 – saw the city in 5th place for job creation.

The Powerhouse report, produced by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, says its growth has been driven by the financial services sector. Recent announcements include the launch by PWC of its tech hub in the heart of Manchester’s financial district and other large employers including EY set to accelerate their operations there.

Looking ahead to Q4 2023, a further 1.9% increase in GVA and a corresponding rise in employment to 524,200 jobs is projected for Manchester.

The growth for the two cities compares with the 1.3%   increase in output for the UK overall in Q4 2021, and they have also fared much better than northern neighbours such as Sheffield on job creation.

The strong performance has been reflected in the executive search market in the north and north-west, which is booming once again as we emerge from the pandemic.

A combination of record house prices in London and the South-East and the desire for an improved quality of life have been the key driver for increased inward migration to the regions by talented executives.

But the new opportunities being created by the faster economic recovery in places like Leeds and Manchester have also proved a big draw.

Our offices in the two cities are seeing record levels of interest from across the UK for senior roles in sectors including financial services and retail, and specialisms such as digital transformation and CFO.

We recently relocated both to accommodate an increase in staffing for our executive search and interim businesses and fast-growing mid-market division HW People to meet this additional demand.

While flexibility is still a key demand from candidates, there is an acceptance that executives are once again expected to be at least partially office-based. Remuneration and location are of much more importance now than the home-office split.

Many senior digital specialists are still, however, able to enjoy home working on a near full-time basis, which has been a real boon for HW Global’s London-based HW Group partners Osmii and Zebra People.

Back in Leeds, notwithstanding the positive recent economic performance, the elephant in the room remains public transport links which continue to be a huge issue. As Irwin Mitchell’s Bryan Bletso concluded in the report: “How far the (HS2) loss will impact the benefits that improved transport connectivity would bring remains to be seen.”

John Wakeford is a Partner at HW Global and heads the Interim business. Photo: Clare Louise Jackson/Shutterstock.

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