Which British cities have the best and worst employment rates?

“Gissa job, mate.” A queue outside a job centre in Bristol back in 2009. Image: Getty.

The latest instalment of our weekly series, in which we use the Centre for Cities’ data tools to crunch some of the numbers on Britain’s cities.

One day we will write one of these data stories and not mention England’s north-south divide at all. This, alas, is not that day.

But there’s a reason for that. This week, we’re looking at employment rates: the proportion of adults who are in work at any one time. And, as one might expect, since recent decades have seen Britain’s booms focus disproportionately on the south east of England, there’s something of a disparity.

This map shows the employment rates in the UK’s 64 largest cities, as they stood in 2014. As ever, darker greens are high rates (which in this case is good), while paler yellows are low ones (which is bad).

The correlation isn’t perfect. Some northern cities are doing very well (York, Warrington, Preston, and – perhaps unexpectedly – Barnsley). In the south, Luton is struggling. Scotland breaks the pattern entirely, and the West Midlands are a disaster zone.

Nonetheless, it is very, very clear that employment rates in the cities of the south are almost universally healthy, while elsewhere in the country the picture is much more mixed.

Here’s another way of looking at the same data. This time it’s the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, the social security benefit paid to people who are out of work. This time, low numbers imply high employment, so it’s the pale colours that are signs of affluence.

What this means is that the map, in effect, inverts:

In a result that will surprise precisely no one, there’s a remarkably close correlation between these two figures. The higher the employment rate, the fewer the people who claiming Job Seeker’s Allowance. The black line is the “line of best fit”, showing the correlation:

Just for the record, here are the 10 cities with the lowest employment rates:

Newport, Belfast, Birmingham, Dundee – and then six in the north of England. That seems pretty disproportionate, doesn’t it?

Here are the 10 with the highest employment rates:

This time, it’s Cheshire boom-town Warrington, oil-rich Aberdeen, and eight cities in the south.

Employment rate isn’t a perfect measure: a town full of idle billionaires would have a terrible employment rate, but would no doubt be thriving all the same.

Nonetheless, especially when combined with the JSA claimant rates, the message is very clear: the north need more jobs. Get to it, Osborne.

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