The Future of the “Office” in Leeds
David Brent didn’t do a lot for the reputation of the UK’s office workers. Perhaps developments in the office layouts and technology are breaking down the “beige” image of the average office job. But it is still easy to overlook the economic importance and sheer size of the “office” sector. However, these often humble, uncelebrated but pivotal functions are at the heart of our modern, high value economy. And this is ever more so for our own regional power house, the city of Leeds.
Total employment in Leeds was just under 474,000 in 2015 (this includes 64,000 self-employed) following a decade of slow growth at 3%, significantly lower than UK average growth in employment.
But by 2025 forecasts suggest this will increase by 39,300, based on Experian econometric modelling, an increase of 8.3% compared to UK average of +7.3% (and 1% above Manchester, just saying?).
Sadly, the manufacturing sector will continue to decline in terms of numbers employed, but at a much-reduced rate of -3% in the decade 2015 to 2025, compared to -17% in the previous decade 2005 to 2015. And at a slower rate that the UK average of -7%.
The Financial and Business Services sector grew strongly in Leeds over 2005 to 2015 increasing by 24% or over 33,000 new positions. And this growth is forecast to continue with growth across all service sectors of nearly 25,000 in those employed and again in particular in the Financial and Business Services sector with growth of +12% or some 16.600 positions forecast. This is in-line with the UK average up to 2015 and forecast growth which is slightly ahead of what’s expected across the whole country up to 2025.
It’s difficult to fully estimate the true number of “office” roles in Leeds, as the management, admin and support functions are an essential part of all sectors. However, the traditional “office” based employment sectors in Leeds have grown on a par with the rest of the country in the last decade. And are forecast to continue to grow slightly ahead of the UK average in the next decade. Accounting for somewhere over 300,000 positions in Leeds by 2025, nearly 60% of all employment. The actual number of “office” based roles is likely to be significantly higher in reality.
According to estimates produced by the Economics Policy Team at Leeds City Council these changes in employment numbers has been accompanied by changes in productivity. For example, an increase in manufacturing productivity of around +24% is expected in the decade from 2015 to 2025. This continues a long-term trend of innovation and continuous improvement in technology and manufacturing processes, which is rightly much celebrated.
What’s perhaps surprising is that productivity in the fast-growing services sector is also improving and improving rapidly. In professional services a +24% productivity gain is anticipated, and in admin services this is forecast to be a +30% productivity upgrade. So, improvements in office technology, IT systems, software, communications capabilities and automation or artificial intelligence, alongside the increase in the numbers employed will see the economic value of the “office” increase in the years ahead. Definitely not beige.