West Yorkshire comprises an almost continuous urban and suburban area divided into four separate metropolitan local authority areas other than Leeds itself. The total population (including Leeds) is around 2.2m and ONS figures suggest it will grow by around 4.6% overall over the next decade.
However, their projections suggest that while the population of Leeds will grow substantially (by 60,000 in a decade) and that Bradford will grow from 536,000 now to around 559,000 by 2027, growth elsewhere will be more modest. They add that the Calderdale local authority area (based around Halifax) will grow from 210,000 now to 221,000 in 2027 and Wakefield from 335,000 now to 350,000 in 2027. Kirklees (based around Huddersfield) will see negligible population growth, rising from 440,000 now to 446,000 in 2027.
There have been significant levels of migration to the area since the 1950s, originally from south Asia and more recently from Europe. Figures from Migration Yorkshire say that net inward migration for Yorkshire as a whole was 273,000 for 2015-16 and was almost equally divided between those from the EU and those from other countries. It added that around half of migrants said they came to work, while significant numbers also came to study or to join family. They say it is too early to be able to suggest if Brexit has had any impact on long term migration trends.
The economy of West Yorkshire was traditionally based around textiles – Bradford was the ‘wool capital of the world’ – manufacturing, engineering and coal mining. Although these industries have declined, manufacturing is still an important contributor to the economy. Bradford, Huddersfield and Wakefield are in the top 15 (of 62) UK towns and cities with the highest ratio of manufacturing businesses (Centre for Cities figures).
Other key areas of economic activity and employment include financial services, retail headquarters, food processing, and logistics and distribution, while the public sector is also a key employer in the largest towns and cities.