Structure of the Economy

Latest available figures show there are 10,660 active businesses in the district (2017). Prior to the downturn, business growth in Wakefield had been strong, outperforming much of the Leeds City Region (LCR). All LCR local authorities saw some decrease in the number of active enterprises during the economic downturn, but the decrease in Wakefield during the latter part of this period was more marked (see graph below). Since 2013, business numbers in the district have grown faster than the LCR average, with total growth since 2004 on a par with Selby and Barnsley. Leeds continues to show the strongest growth.

Source: ONS Business Demography
[hover mouse over lines to see district names and values)

The prevailing economic conditions of the past decade have affected the chances of newly started businesses in different ways. Businesses born between 2004 and 2006 tended to fare well, with short and medium-term survival rates turning out very similar to the England average, and sometimes slightly above (see graph below). The three-year Survival rates for businesses starting in 2007 and 2008 then dropped sharply, as the economic downturn deepened. Survival rates started to improve again in 2011, but for Wakefield District businesses starting out in 2014 the survival rates have been below the Leeds City Region and England averages.

Health is the largest employment sector in the district, followed by transport and storage and manufacturing. There is a large amount of employment in retail, but the numbers fell during the economic downturn and are being slow to recover. Employment in manufacturing has increased between 2011 and 2017, particularly the manufacture of food products. Around 50% of the increase in business administration jobs has been in the activities of employment agencies.

In 2010 there were 36,200 people in employment in the public sector in Wakefield District (26% of the total in employment). In 2017 this number fell to 30,930, or 20% of the total in employment. Similar reductions have been seen across the Leeds City Region. Some of this change is due to certain organisation types being reclassified, e.g. from 2012, further education colleges were counted as part of the private sector.

Workplace employment by sector. Source: ONS BRES (open access; nomis API)
(click on column headers to sort)

Despite the changes in sector job numbers mentioned above, within the Leeds City Region (LCR), Wakefield district’s labour market remains characterised by a high degree of specialisation in logistics industries and public administration (see chart below). Jobs in knowledge intensive business services have increased by 23% over the past five years, but compared to elsewhere in the LCR, the numbers of jobs in finance, IT, professional and scientific sectors remain lower than average.

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