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Unlike Wakefield and Brighton, Birmingham did not see strong private sector job creation between 1998 and 2008 – at a city-wide level the city lost private sector jobs. But this sluggish performance was not seen in the city centre, which saw private sector jobs growth of 27 per cent over the period. These patterns meant that Birmingham’s economy centralised over the period, with the city centre’s share of private sector jobs increasing from 8 per cent to 10 per cent.
Private sector jobs change in Birmingham, 1998-2008
Source: ONS 2013, Business Structure Database, contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2011
Of the net new private sector jobs created in the city centre, over 80 per cent were in knowledge-intensive business services. These types of jobs now make up almost 60 per cent of all private sector jobs within the city centre, reflecting Birmingham’s position as a regional services centre.
The recent performance of Birmingham’s city centre is interesting in the context of the history of policy in the city. In 1988 the city council brought together people from the UK and abroad to come up with ideas for the regeneration of the city centre, a gathering that became known as the Highbury Initiative. Subsequent actions focused on making changes to the inner ring road or ‘concrete collar’, which was seen as being restrictive on the growth of the city centre, designating different parts of the city centre as ‘quarters’ (e.g. the jewellery quarter) and improving pedestrian access and the public realm. While it’s difficult to say what impact these interventions have had (although this impact must surely have been positive), they do at least offer an avenue for further investigation for those cities that have struggling city centre economies.
The city centre wasn’t the only place to experience growth. It’s interesting to see that the area around the airport, for example, created 8,000 private sector jobs over the period. Central Wolverhampton created around 7,000 private sector jobs. And the area containing the Brierley Hill enterprise zone also saw much stronger private sector jobs growth than Dudley local authority as a whole. In contrast, the area around Birmingham city centre and out to Edgbaston saw large falls in private sector jobs.
What do these patterns of growth suggest about the future of Birmingham’s economy? Overall the city has struggled in recent years and tends to lag behind many other large cities on a range of economic indicators. But the strong performance of the city centre, and the make-up of this growth, suggests that Birmingham may be turning a corner. While the wider city continues to deal with the decline of manufacturing, the knowledge-based services growth in the city centre puts the city in a strong position to contribute to future economic growth as the UK continues to specialise in this type of activity.
As part of our work on city centre economies we have produced a briefing paper on the geography of jobs in Birmingham, which looks in more detail at the patterns of private sector jobs growth in the city and the sectors responsible for these patterns.
Previous blog in the series: The geography of jobs in Brighton and Wakefield
Next blog in the series: An alternative city centre for Cambridge
See the full report: Beyond the High Street
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