Covid-19 has not just had a tragic human and social cost, but an economic one too. Cities Outlook 2021 indicates that it has made the ‘levelling up’ challenge at least four times harder, as so many jobs have been lost or furloughed over this period, with 80 per cent of the levelling up challenge concentrated in urban areas.1

This report looks at the economic impact of Covid-19 on the 11 Core Cities to understand how their economies were affected and how they bounced back from the first national lockdown, in order to understand how they are likely to be affected by continuing restrictions and what the shape of recovery may be, assuming that Covid-19 is brought under control in the first half of 2021.

It uses real-time data up to the second lockdown to understand how labour markets, city centres and high streets, and transport and mobility have all changed within the wider urban areas of the Core Cities over 2020. This data comes from a variety of sources, including Beauclair, Locomizer, Google, the Office for National Statistics and the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Centre for Cities uses the Primary Urban Area (PUA) definition for cities to capture the built-up footprint of cities.2 Where the data exists, this has then been broken down for the central local authority of the members of Core Cities UK in boxes throughout the report. The city centres discussed all lie within these central local authorities.


  • 1 Centre for Cities (2021), Cities Outlook 2021, London: Centre for Cities
  • 2 Although some cities use different definitions of their economic area, the PUA definition allows for better comparisons between cities. Slightly distinct geographies do not change the central message of the analysis or recommendations.