Nowhere is feeling the economic and social impact of Covid-19 more than UK’s cities and largest towns. They account for around 60% of the country’s economic output and more than half of the population.
Once the immediate crisis is over, the Government will need to consider how it can help the towns and cities most economically affected by Coronavirus rebuild their economies.
The lockdown policies that the Government have introduced to slow the spread of Coronavirus have had a huge economic impact. Some parts of the country will feel the negative effects more acutely than others.
Places with stronger highly-skilled information-based economies – mostly in the Greater South East – have been able to more easily adapt to working from home, ensuring that some parts the economy continues to function. However, other areas – mostly in the North and Midlands – with weaker low-skill service-based economies have been less able to do this.
They also have larger proportions of low-skilled self-employed people and the market for their services has shrunk significantly during this pandemic. They may receive less Government support once this crisis is over.
These outside the Greater South East will require more direct Government interventions to support their economies once the immediate public-health crisis is over.
Since lockdown began in March, an extra 850,000 people have registered for unemployment benefits. Every city and large town as seen an increase in unemployment since the beginning of lockdown, but it has risen the most in places in northern England.
Blackpool, Liverpool, Hull, Belfast and Manchester have seen the largest increases in unemployment since lockdown began. Meanwhile, cities and towns in southern England and The Midlands have seen smaller increases in unemployment. Cambridge, Oxford, Reading, Milton Keynes and Aberdeen have seen the smallest increases in unemployment since March.
In the medium term, as many as one in five jobs in cities and large towns could be at risk of redundancy or furloughing, and those reliant on the aviation industry, such as Crawley and Derby, are likely to be hardest hit. These areas are also the places most likely to be worst affected if the Job Retention Scheme is withdrawn too soon.
Once the public health crisis has ended, policymakers must develop a long-term response which recognises that the economic damage done by Coronavirus will be felt differently across the country.
Without a place-focussed economic response, the geographic inequalities that we saw before the Coronavirus will become even more entrenched, and the Prime Minister’s mission to level up the country will even harder to achieve.
While many people in the Greater South East have now shifted to working from home. Our research suggests that they have less living space per person to do this. People in cities have around 35.3 square metres per person on average – less than people living in non-urban areas. These differences across the country are widened by the shortage of housing in expensive cities, resulting in falling amounts of floorspace for people in certain places. Ordinarily, the amenities and work opportunities created by stronger cities’ economies would mean that a lack of space matters less. But this becomes a bigger problem when people cannot leave their home.
On the whole, we see that the city centre workers had responded before the Prime Minister announced what has become known as the lockdown, on Tuesday 24 March, especially in London. The scale and the pace of this response was biggest in the largest cities and in particular those with the strongest city centre economies.
For now, the pandemic seems to be concentrated mainly in cities. Because the population in urban areas lives more densely, cities have a greater potential to turn into hotspots for the contagion and diffusion of disease. But looking at age and health characteristics shows significant differences in the size of “at risk” populations (those who are older or with health conditions) between the country’s largest cities and towns. This suggests that some places are more vulnerable than others.
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Some cities will have more people working at home – but have less space while doing so.
Uncertainty for self-employed people, home-working and the importance of agglomeration – the impact of Coronavirus on employment will be felt differently across the UK
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Interventions to get unemployed people back to work must be timely, tailored and localised.
Join us to hear about the latest unemployment data and claimant counts across the country
Many expect the Coronavirus pandemic to bring about a working from home revolution. In this podcast Jonathan Reades and Martin Crookston join Andrew Carter to discuss face-to-face interaction and why cities still matter in the information age.
Twenty years ago the economist Frances Cairncross predicted that communications technologies would lead to the spreading of jobs away from cities. In the decades since precisely the opposite has happened. But is Covid-19 about to change all that?
Join us for analysis and discussion of the impact of the pandemic and lockdown on urban transport
The Government has abandoned its “stay at home” message, and replaced it with a “stay alert” approach. But which cities have reached the peak of infections? And should this inform a local approach to the easing of lockdown?
Kanishka Narayan, Associate at Centre for Cities, joins Andrew Carter to discuss his latest research into problem debt in UK cities.
Social distancing in the workplace will be easier in northern cities, where workers have more space than those in the south.
Where in England and Wales has the most Coronavirus cases?
Unemployment claimant counts are up everywhere in the country, with cities and large towns with weaker economies in the North and Midlands most affected.