Gap between rich and poor cities has deepened in recession

Cities which suffered from the highest rates of unemployment before the recession have been hit hardest by the downturn and will be the slowest to recover, research suggests.

A report by think-tank Centre for Cities has revealed in the past two years the difference between the two cities with the highest and lowest proportion of residents claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance – Hull and Cambridge – has nearly doubled.

The think-tank’s research found that almost four in 10 jobs (39%) in England were based in just five cities – Greater London, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and Liverpool.

Brighton, Milton Keynes, Reading, Cambridge and Edinburgh, were labelled the five cities to watch as they have the right ingredients to succeed, post-recession.

They have strong private sectors, high levels of entrepreneurship, highly educated workforces and large shares of knowledge-intensive jobs.

Brighton, in particular, has added the highest number of private sector jobs in the past decade – an extra 20,000 – while more than one-third of its workforce is graduate-level and one in five of its jobs is part of the knowledge economy.

The five cities with the toughest outlook after the recovery also included Stoke, Burnley, Barnsley, Newport and Doncaster, which lost private sector jobs before the recession and many of their residents have no qualifications.

Between 1998 and 2008 Stoke saw a net loss of more than 20,000 private sector jobs from its economy, while one in five of its population has no formal qualifications.

The think-tank has warned that as the UK starts to recover from the recession more robust city economies like Brighton are likely to grow stronger, leaving others like Doncaster further behind.

Centre for Cities has called on the government to encourage employers to create jobs in more deprived cities by improving their schools, adult skills provision and public transport.

Dermot Finch, chief executive of the Centre for Cities, said: “We face an uneven recovery. The national economy may be emerging from recession but cities like Brighton are likely to recover more strongly than the likes of Barnsley.

“Party leaders need to wake up to the reality that some cities will still feel in the middle of a recession until well after the election. The next government needs to help these struggling cities fix the basics – like improving schools and public transport so they can attract new business and jobs.”

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