As the economy in the regions seems to have started on an upswing over the last couple of years our regional cities have become of greater interest to many investors looking for opportunities. So this month we will begin a series of in depth reports looking at prospects for investment in the UK's major regional cities and towns, starting first of all with Leeds. We will look at important property related fundamentals such as population, employment and economic growth, regeneration and development, as well as property supply and demand, price and rent trends and opinions from those in the market.
Size and population growth
Leeds has a population of around 750,000 making it the third largest city in the UK, although not the third largest urban area. The wider Leeds City Region - covering all of West Yorkshire, York and some of North and South Yorkshire - has a population around 3m. The population of Leeds has grown by approximately 5% over the last decade. Current ONS population projections say the city population will increase by 8.7% by 2020 and 20.3% by 2035. Should these figures prove correct they will mean that Leeds will grow faster than the surrounding Yorkshire and the Humber region but more slowly than England and Wales as a whole.
Economy and employment
Leeds' economy was traditionally industrial but important sectors now include financial and professional services, digital and information services, precision manufacturing, health and innovation, and food and drink. The city region has an economy worth £55bn, while figures from the Leeds Observatory say that the city economy is worth around £21bn and forecasts it will grow by 12.4% in the next five years.
In the latest 'Cities Outlook' from the Centre For Cities, Leeds ranked highly (eighth out of the top ten cities in the UK) as a centre for private sector jobs growth during 2012-2013, ranking slightly ahead of London. It adds that Leeds is one of only three cities (the others being London and Manchester) which have more private sector jobs than the national average.
Leeds City Council's latest 'Labour Market Report' offers some projections on the labour market here. It says that total employment in Leeds is now approximately 470,000 jobs which, allowing for growth in the 2000s and decline in the recession, is only a marginal increase since 2004. It suggests that the number of jobs will increase by 36,000 over the next decade - the second largest increase in the UK, just behind Birmingham. However, it also suggests that jobs in manufacturing will continue to decline while there will be significant growth in employment in construction, accommodation/food services, information and communications, and financial/business services.