Home Working in the UK Finding a Job UK jobs: Labour market overview
Last update on November 19, 2019
Written by EURES, the European Job Mobility Portal

Here is a guide to regional UK jobs and the labour market in the UK from EURES, the European job mobility portal.

Scroll down to find an overview of each region:

Jobs in London

In the middle of 2008, the official London population including the London administrative area (32 boroughs and the City of London) was 7.6 million. This does not include the surrounding metropolitan areas. The last census taken in 2001 showed that London had the highest concentration of people from ethnic minority backgrounds with 45 percent of the UK total living in London. This means that London has a rich cultural diversity with as many as 300 languages being spoken in just one of its boroughs. It is believed that over two million people also travel to London every day to work and over 28 million tourists visit the Capital each year.

London is by far the largest contributor to the economy among the countries and regions of the United Kingdom. Historically, it is the world centre for business finance and it continues to be the most attractive city for inward investment in Europe. The London labour market is dominated by real estate, renting and business activities and financial intermediation.

In June 2010, the employment rate in London was 69.1 percent, lower than the UK rate of 72.3 percent. In April 2010, the borough of Newham had the lowest employment rate (56.2 percent) and Wandsworth had the highest levels of employment (78.2 percent).

The number of full-time workers in London fell by 56,000 and the number of part-time workers increased by 61,000, in the three months to April 2010. The number of self-employed people working part-time has also increased.

Jobs in the South East

The South East is home to over 8.3 million people, making it the UK’s most populated region. It comprises the counties of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Kent, Oxfordshire, Surrey and East and West Sussex.  The key employment centres are the cities of Southampton, Portsmouth, Oxford, Milton Keynes, Reading, Brighton and the Medway towns (Chatham, Rochester, Gillingham, Rainham and Strood) in Kent.  The region stretches around the south and west of London, from the English Channel to south-central England.

The Economic downturn has had an impact on the economy of the region, and many sectors have reported a deteriorating economic situation with several employers making staff redundant. This is illustrated by the numbers claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (unemployment benefit), which rose to 156,967 in August 2009, compared with 78,309 in August 2008, an increase of 100 percent. The peak was reached in May 2009, when a 12-month increase of 125 percent was shown. However, during 2010 the trend appears to have eased to some extent, with 134,216 Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants in June 2010.

There are 4,139,000 people in employment in the region according to June 2010 figures, which is 76.1 percent of all people of working age and 93.8 percent of the total economically active population in the South East Region. The employment rates for the region are significantly higher than the national average.

Unemployment is currently 272,000, representing 5 percent of all people of working age within the South East Region; this compares with 269,000 in June 2009. The South East region has the lowest level of unemployed economically activity at 6.2 percent, followed by the South West Region with 6.3 percent.

During June 2010, 40,554 new vacancies were notified to Jobcentre Plus, 36.1 percent more than those notified in June 2009, but 16.6 percent fewer than in May 2010.  This represents an increase of 7.4 percent for the region when compared to the average monthly figure of 37,750 new vacancies notified during the period July 2009 to June 2010.

According to data from employer redundancy notifications, more than 4,300 redundancies were announced in the South East in June 2010, which is 25.6 percent fewer than in June 2009. The highest proportions of notified redundancies in the month were shown by the Information & Communication sector, with 24.8 percent, followed by the Financial & Insurance sector with 13.8 percent. The sectors with the largest changes from the previous month are the Financial & Insurance sector with a figure of 603 notified redundancies – this sector had none in May 2010, Information and Communication had an increase of 491 notified redundancies and the Public Administration, Defence and Social Security sector with an increase of 433.  The Human Health and Social Work sector had 314 fewer notified redundancies than in May.

Jobs in the South West

The South West has a population of about 5 million and is the largest of the 9 English regions in the area (23,837 sq km). It includes the counties of Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Gloucestershire, Dorset and Wiltshire, and the four Unitary Authorities that make up the West of England.  The region has the highest percentage of rural land of any English region, three-quarters of the total land area being agricultural.

The employment rate in South West is 75.5 percent compared with the national rate of 72.5 percent (March-May 2010). Historically, the main generators of wealth have been real estate/renting/business activities; wholesale and retail activity; manufacturing; agriculture and tourism.

Although a region where small and medium enterprise (SME) employers dominate, the South West also has several large employers of international significance, such as Motorola; Airbus; British Aerospace; Honda and Nationwide Building Society. All have suffered in the recession, and have had to reduce their workforce or restructure. Other large employers throughout the region include a number of hospitals and NHS trusts, educational institutions, and public administration bodies, contributing to the rising number of professional and executive redundancies. The South West has a high proportion of academic and qualified people.

Notified redundancies March-May 2010 were 8 percent less than the same period last year. Manufacturing still accounts for the greatest number of redundancies in the South West, 37 percent of job losses. For the first quarter of 2010-2011, public sector losses were 11 percent, with administrative jobs (excluding the public sector) accounting for a further 7 percent.

In June 2010, there were 81,200 people unemployed in the region (seasonally adjusted figures), a decrease on the previous year of 13,600. Unemployment in the South West 2008-2009 rose at a faster rate than in other regions, but it started from a very low base, and the rate of increase of employment 2009-2010 equals that of the rest of the UK.

In the last quarter, (March-May 2010), 91,622 new vacancies were notified, a rise of 32.3 percent in the comparable quarter last year.

Jobs in East of England

The East of England region comprises the six counties of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk. It has a population of 5.6 million people, which is forecast to be in excess of 6 million by 2021. The county of Essex has the largest population in the region.

Around 50 percent of the working-age population of 3 million live in regional cities and major conurbations including Cambridge, Luton, Norwich, Peterborough, Haven Gateway and Thames Gateway in South Essex. The region has a large rural hinterland, including about one-fifth of England’s market towns.  Agricultural and Food Production sectors significantly contribute towards the local economy.

The East of England has access to world-leading environmental expertise through its research institutions, universities and centres of excellence. It has the highest amount of investment in research and development of any UK region.

The economy in the East of England appears to be making a slow recovery in 2010, with an increase in vacancies and decrease in jobseekers registered for Jobseeker’s Allowance (unemployment benefit).

Jobs in East Midlands

The East Midlands is one of the smallest English regions in terms of the number of residents, although it is projected to have higher population growth over the next 25 years than any other English region, with particularly high increases in the older age groups.

The region’s workforce has a relatively low level of skills and a smaller proportion of residents employed in higher skilled occupations than the UK as a whole. However, the region has maintained relatively high levels of employment compared with the UK, even during the economic downturn.

The East Midlands has a diverse landscape, economy and population. There are large rural areas, such as the Peak District National Park in the north and the Lincolnshire Wolds in the east, which attract many visitors. There are also large industrialised areas.

The region is bordered by Yorkshire, the North West, the West Midlands, the South East and the East of England, together with the North Sea coastline to the east. It is 15,600 square km in area, which makes it the fourth largest English region. The region covers 12 percent of the total area of England and 6 percent of the UK and consists of five counties; Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Nottinghamshire.
The region, particularly the north and west, is well served by transport links. East Midlands Airport in Leicestershire is situated between the three main cities of Derby, Leicester and Nottingham. There are high-speed trains to London with connections to the West Midlands and the South West. The M1 motorway also serves the three largest conurbations.

The population of the East Midlands in 2008 was estimated to be 4.43 million, which is 7.2 percent of the UK’s total. Over the next 25 years, the population of the East Midlands is projected to grow at a faster rate than any other English region, which would increase the pressure on housing and jobs.

The East Midlands supports a diverse range of industry, including Rolls-Royce plc (aerospace); Toyota (automotive); Bombardier (rail); Thornton’s (confectionery) in Derbyshire, FKI plc (engineering); Walkers Crisps (food); BMI (air transport) in Leicestershire, Siemens (engineering); Bakkavör (food); Lincolnshire Coast (tourism) in Lincolnshire, Corus Tubes (metal-working); Barclycard (finance); Blacks Leisure Group (retail) in Northamptonshire, Capital One & Experian (finance); Alliance Boots (pharmaceuticals/retail); Premier Foods (food) in Nottinghamshire, and .Lands End (retail); HeidelbergCement (manufacturing); agriculture in Rutland. The Public and Education Sectors are also significant employers in all areas of the region.

Jobs in West Midlands

The West Midlands has a population of over 5.37 million people, making it the fifth largest region in England. The region comprises the counties of Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire and the Metropolitan county of the West Midlands. The region is also home to Birmingham (the second largest city in the UK), Coventry, Stoke-on-Trent, and Wolverhampton.

Historically, employment was dominated by manufacturing, and in particular the automotive industry. More recently manufacturing has declined dramatically in importance and now accounts for less than 13 percent of jobs, but the region is still one of the main manufacturing areas in England with an increasing focus on high technology production.

The number of people working in the service industries, particularly education, health, tourism, financial services, hotels and restaurants has increased significantly and these sectors are now the backbone of the region’s economy.

According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), unemployment in the West Midlands was 230,000 for the period March to May 2010. This is a fall of 23,000 on the previous quarter, and 43,000 less than at the same time last year. The unemployment rate in the region is 8.6 percent – down 2 percent from its peak between April and June 2009.

This is higher than the national UK average unemployment rate of 7.8 percent, although the North of England, London, Wales and Northern Ireland all have higher unemployment rates than the West Midlands.

With its greater dependence on manufacturing, the West Midlands suffered the most during the early stages of the recession, with unemployment rising faster than anywhere else in the country. In recent months, however, the gap is narrowing.

In June 2010, there were 159,800 people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance. This is down 13 percent from its peak of 184,600 in October last year. However, unemployment remains 72 percent higher than in March 2008 when unemployment started rising. The region has the second highest rate of people claiming jobseeker’s allowance (unemployment benefit) of all the English regions, at 4.8 percent compared to 3.7 percent across England as a whole.  In some parts of Birmingham and Wolverhampton, the number claiming exceeds 11 percent.

Jobs in Wales

Wales is one of the UK’s largest geographical areas, with a population of almost 3 million, with around one in two of the Welsh population living in South East Wales and less than one in ten living in mid-Wales.

The areas of highest job density are centred around Cardiff, and along the M4 motorway that runs east to west through Newport, Cardiff and on to Swansea. North East Wales also has a relatively strong employer base.

Wales has a jobs density figure of 0.75, compared with a UK figure of 0.83 meaning that Wales has fewer jobs per person of working age compared with the UK as a whole. Whilst Cardiff and Newport have job density figures of 0.99 and 0.95 respectively, the Gwent Valleys have a much lower figure of 0.52.

The Welsh Labour Market has moved away from the traditional heavy industries, towards significant growth in the Service sector.

The public sector is highly important to the Welsh labour market with Local Authorities (LAs), NHS Trusts, and a number of central Government Agencies based in Wales, for example, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) in Swansea and Office for National Statistics at Newport. In addition, the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) has its main base in Cardiff but has recently moved a variety of functions to Merthyr Tydfil in the South Wales Valleys area and Aberystwyth in Mid Wales.

75.4 percent of the Welsh working age population are economically active, compared with the UK rate of 78.7 percent. The reverse of this statistic is that 24.6 percent of working-age people are inactive compared with 21.3 percent UK figure. Full-time workers in Wales earn an average of GBP 445 per week.

Jobs in Yorkshire and the Humber

The Yorkshire and Humber Region is an area of 15,411 square kilometres, with a population of just over five million.  It includes the counties of South and West Yorkshire, North Yorkshire, and the former county of Humberside. It covers 6 percent of the UK landmass; with one-fifth of the land area designated as National Park, including the North Yorkshire Moors and the Yorkshire Dales. The Region also includes many large urban areas such as York, Leeds, Sheffield and Bradford.

North Yorkshire and the former county of Humberside are primarily rural and are dependant on agriculture and small manufacturing business and service industries. South and West Yorkshire are primarily urban and have traditional industries, although these industries are rapidly declining.

Freedom of mobility means that there is limited data available on where migrant workers settle in the United Kingdom.  However, most migrant workers settle in urban areas. Data from applications for National Insurance Numbers shows that the majority of applications are from Polish and secondly Latvian Nationals.

Yorkshire and the Humber have been affected by the global economic recession. Many businesses have been affected, and in particular, the finance sector (predominantly based in Leeds) has seen many job losses.

The number of people claiming unemployment benefit, known as Jobseekers Allowance (JSA), has been steadily reducing since January 2010. There are currently (May 2010) 148,200 people claiming Jobseekers Allowance, which is the lowest number since April 2009. The unemployment rate for the Region, (as measured by the Labour Force Survey), is 8.2 percent, compared with 7.9 percent for the United Kingdom.

2.3 million people of working age are in employment in the Region, out of 28.8 million nationally. The working age employment rate is 70.9 percent, as opposed to 72.1 percent nationally.

The economic activity rate is 77.9 percent, meaning that 2.6 million people of working age are economically active in the region. (Nationally 29.8 million.)

The economic inactivity rate is 21.5 percent, which is equal to the national average, with 697,000 people of working age economically inactive in Yorkshire and Humber out of 8.16 million people nationally.

Jobs in the North West

The North West region comprises of the counties of Cheshire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Merseyside. The population of the region is just under 7 million (third largest English region) with the density ranging from less than a third of the UK average in Cumbria to more than 8 times the UK average in Greater Manchester and Merseyside. Liverpool and Manchester are the region’s largest cities and key economic centres.  The holiday resort of Blackpool and the Lake District National Park in Cumbria employ many people in the hospitality and leisure industries. Four-fifths of the region is rural, although 60 percent of people live in the conurbations of Greater Manchester and Merseyside.

Since the enlargement of the EU in May 2004 there has been a significant rise in the number of migrant workers coming to the region.  Due to the economic downturn, evidence suggests the numbers of Eastern and Central European nationals leaving the North West has increased significantly. This is largely due to the fall in the value of the UK currency (GB pound) and the downturn in job vacancies in the current economic climate. The region has seen a decline in the number of jobs employing foreign workers in the construction, hospitality and retail sectors, but there is still a strong demand for care sector workers. Recent changes to the National immigration rules have highlighted skills shortage areas and the need to search the local labour market and Europe before advertising further afield. Following many decades of inward migration, there is a wide and diverse range of ethnic groups throughout the region.

The region is the UK’s largest regional economy and home to over 230,000 companies of which 3000 are overseas owned.  Three-quarters of the countries Top 100 companies have bases in the North West.

The region boasts the largest concentration of universities in Europe and is the chosen location for major ICT companies including Brother, IBM, Hewlett Packard, Siemens, ICL/Fujitsu and Sun Micro Systems. Three largest sectors in terms of employment are service industries both public and private sector, manufacturing, engineering including automotive, chemicals, advanced materials and retail. However, the ICT and automotive sectors have seen a downturn in business over recent years. Growth is expected in the tourism industry in Blackpool and the Lake District in 2010 due to the fall in the pound and the likelihood that more local and international tourists will take holidays in the UK.

The region is important for chemical manufacture in the UK, with 800 companies in the chemical and related industries employing 43,000 people. It is also the UK’s leading exporter of pharmaceuticals.

The overall economic picture for the region began to decline at the end of 2008. The sectors with the highest levels of redundancies have been in wholesale & retail (20 percent) and manufacturing (19 percent). The construction industry accounts for 6 percent of the North West economy and has reported an adverse downturn. Some large supermarkets are expanding, opening new stores in the North West. This could equate to about 2000 jobs, the majority of which will be part-time opportunities. Food manufacturers and the car industry have also experienced some factory closure and short time working. However skills shortages are still being reported in Engineering, the care sector and secondary school teacher particularly science/maths teachers.

The working age employment rate is 70.9 percent compared to the national rate of 72.3 percent. The unemployment rate for the region is 8.6 percent, higher than the national average of 7.9 percent. There are some specific areas of high unemployment, particularly in inner-city wards within Liverpool and Manchester.

As of June 2010, there were 179,800 people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (unemployment benefit) this is a decrease on the previous month and decrease on a year earlier.

Jobs in the North East

The North East is England’s smallest region in population terms with around 2.5 million people. The region is comprised of the counties of Northumberland and County Durham, and the cities of Durham, Newcastle and Sunderland. Key employment centres in the region include the city of Durham, the Tyne and Wear (Newcastle, Gateshead and Sunderland), and the Tees Valley (Middlesbrough, Hartlepool and Darlington).

The North East is home to a number of internationally acclaimed universities including the University of Durham, the third oldest university in England.

The changing economy has recently seen the decline of primary industries such as coal mining and shipbuilding. Tyneside is now an international centre of art, culture and scientific research (especially in stem cell technology). Wearside is becoming an important area for quaternary industry (science and high technology) while Teesside has a concentration of petrochemical and associated industries. Northumberland and County Durham, both being largely rural, base much of their economies on farming and tourism.

As of June 2010, the estimated resident working age population was 1,597,523 (834,673 men and 762,850 women). The latest Labour Force Survey (April 2010) suggested that 60.6 percent of working-age people were in employment; an increase from 59.8 percent in April 2009. The most recent employee estimates by industry (Dec 2009) indicated that around 1,210,892 people are working in the North East

Public Administration, Education and Health are the biggest sectors, accounting for 32.0 percent of those in work, followed by Distribution, Hotels and Restaurants (23.2 percent); Banking and Financial sector (15.0 percent) and Manufacturing (12.6 percent).

Jobs in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland (NI) has a population of just under 1.8 million people, making it the smallest of the United Kingdom’s countries and regions. Historically, an area of outward migration, NI’s population has grown by 6 percent since the start of 2000  through a combination of natural increase and inward migration; the latter has been particularly evident since the expansion of the EU in 2004.

Employment grew considerably in NI in the decade from 1999 to 2008, with nearly 100,000 more jobs in NI over the ten year period – at the end of 2008, there were nearly 800,000 people in employment. These figures declined in early 2009 with the effects of the global economic downturn, and by the middle of the year employment levels had fallen by around 6 percent over the previous year to under 750,000, but rose in the early part of 2010 to around 775,000. The fall in employment in NI over this period was greater than in any other UK country or region. Traditionally, employment has been dominated by agriculture and manufacturing industries such as textiles and heavy engineering, including shipbuilding. These sectors have now declined and manufacturing, for example, only accounts for around 11 percent of employee jobs. Service sector jobs have taken their place, including Wholesale and Retail (18 percent of employee jobs); and Health and Social Work (17 percent). In NI, around a third of jobs are in the public sector, compared with about a fifth in the UK as a whole. In 2009, the average private sector wage for full-time employees in NI was only around 82 percent of the UK figure.

Despite reductions in earlier years, in mid-2010, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) rate of unemployment in NI was 6.9 percent, up from 6.3 percent a year earlier. The NI rate remains lower than the UK rate (7.9 percent) and that of the EU as a whole (9.6 percent).  The numbers of people claiming  Jobseeker’s Allowance (unemployment benefit) rose sharply in late 2008 and through 2009, due to the recession. By May 2010, the seasonally adjusted total stood at just under 55,500, up by nearly 15 percent on the year, with economic forecasts suggesting that unemployment will continue to rise during the rest of 2010 and into 2011.  Inactivity rates are much higher than in the rest of the UK, however, with 26.7 percent of the working age population being inactive, which is the highest of any UK country or region and more than 5 percent higher than the UK rate.

Jobs in Scotland

Scotland is the UK’s largest region in terms of land area and is home to 5.17 million people, 9 percent of the UK population. Most of Scotland’s population reside either in the central lowlands or along the east coast. Key employment areas include the cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee, Stirling and Inverness.

Employment in Scotland over the period October 2008 to September 2009 was 2,404,000 – a decrease of 91,000 on the previous year. However, Scotland’s current employment rate (74.3 percent) remains slightly above the UK average of 72.9 percent. The economic activity rate (79.8 percent) as at September 2009 is a reduction of 0.2 percent on year compared to the UK rate of 78.9 percent (a decrease of 0.2 percent).

The average gross annual full-time income in Scotland is currently GBP 24,627, up from  GBP 24,014 in 2008. The gross weekly average full-time wage is GBP 473.60 in Scotland and GBP 490.20 in Great Britain.

Over the year the largest percentage increase of those claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (Unemployment Benefit) has occurred amongst those whose usual occupation is in sales and customer service (up 32 percent) and personal service occupations (up 26 percent).Over the same period, the largest percentage decrease occurred amongst those whose usual occupation is in Management/Senior Officials (down 13 percent) and Process, Plant and Machine Operatives (down 9 percent).

In the final quarter of 2009, there were 576,600 people employed in the public sector (excluding financial institutions), a decrease of 2,800 (0.5 percent) over the year. There were 1,860,200 people employed in the private sector. Over the year, private sector employment has decreased at a faster rate, down 2.6 percent.