No city or large town has been left unaffected by the impacts of Covid-19, which has sent shockwaves through the UK labour market and in some cases heightened existing inequalities to do with unemployment and skills.

Between March 2020 and Jan 2021, 1.3 million people lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic. The next step for the Government will be to get those who have lost their jobs back into the labour market as it balances the phasing out of support for workers and businesses with lifting restrictions.

Existing inequalities affecting employment

Centre for Cities’ Cities Outlook 2021 highlighted the stark inequalities that exist in terms of access to job opportunities and education across the UK. Much of this inequality comes down to differences in industrial structure within cities, as shown by City Monitor. For example, London is home to almost 25 per cent of knowledge intensive private-sector jobs, compared to just over 5 per cent in Burnley.

If the Government is to successfully address this inequality, its levelling up agenda should focus on investing in skills and improving office working space and city-region transport infrastructure to attract more high-knowledge businesses to underperforming places.

The impact of Covid-19 on unemployment

A year on from the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, 4.5 million workers are still reliant on it. While in some parts of the country the situation is stabilising, the labour market in cities and large towns in the Greater South East continues to deteriorate.

Our analysis shows that coastal cities like Blackpool, Brighton and Bournemouth, tourist hotspots like London, York and Edinburgh and places reliant on the travel and aviation industry such as Crawley, Luton and Slough remain the most reliant on the furlough scheme.

Job creation is the most pressing policy challenge we now face

According to our latest research in partnership with HSBC UK, almost 10 million new jobs will need to be generated to recover from the pandemic. This research looked at patterns of the past, specifically the UK’s jobs miracle between 2013 and 2019, to highlight how cities will play a particularly important role in the UK’s recovery, representing the main job creators post-Covid.

Policy must focus on job creation and skills

The Government should encourage a new wave of job creation to offset the 1.3 million posts lost as a result of Covid-19, driving productivity growth in the recovery phase.

  • A greater focus is needed on retraining those who have lost their job in the pandemic. The government should increase skills to make it easier for people to move between jobs and industries.
  • When social restrictions are lifted and the economy reopens, the Government should support high street businesses and hospitality, sectors which have seen strong job growth in recent years, through a ‘Spend out to help out’ voucher.
  • Support should be given to labour intensive industries such as construction – a sector which has played an important role in creating jobs across the country – and has a part to play in the Government’s green agenda.

How is unemployment affecting people?

While unemployment is on the rise everywhere, some parts of the country have been hit by Covid—19 more than others.

How is COVID—19 affecting jobs?

Covid-19 is reshaping the economy, changing demand as well as ways of working.

Skills and the future of work

Technological changes, globalisation and other labour market trends, compounded with Covid—19, are reshaping the world of work, with implications for policy.

Cities Outlook 2018

How will the rise of the robots affect jobs in UK cities?

Read it in full here

Opportunity knocks? Economic outcomes for low-skilled people in cities

Cities can offer low-skilled people good economic outcomes that support inclusive growth aims, but inclusive growth cannot come without economic growth.

Read the full report here

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