Square Mile employment has boomed, but politicians must not get complacent

 
Catherine McGuinness
London By Night
From 2015 to 2016, the number of Square Mile workers rose from 455,000 to 483,000 – an increase of 28,000 jobs (Source: Getty)

Official annual jobs data released last week showed some positive news for the Square Mile.

From 2015 to 2016, the number of Square Mile workers rose from 455,000 to 483,000 – an increase of 28,000 jobs, equating to six percent.

Financial services were the major driver behind this increase, and, together with insurance, accounted for 18,000 of these jobs.

Read more: The Culture Mile: A creative exchange for a truly internationalist city

When breaking down this data even further, banking (2,500), non-life insurance (3,000), and insurance brokers (2,500) were the largest growth components.

Business administration, including employment agencies, leasing office equipment, and building services, was also boomed last year, with an additional 5,500 jobs created here, increasing this sector by 10 per cent to nearly 63,000.

The technology sector – specifically the information and communication sector, which has shown strong growth in the City in recent years – has slowed this time, rising from 37,000 to 38,000 jobs ( just 2.7 per cent growth). It does, however, still account for 7.8 per cent of City employment, and goes to show just how incredibly diverse we are.

As the Tech Nation report from this year showed, London hosted 22,000 “meetups” in 2016 – three times as many as in Berlin, Amsterdam or Paris.

The City is clearly growing, and, as economics 101 will teach us, supply needs to keep up with demand.

That is why there is currently 93m square feet of office space in the City, with a further 13.5m square feet under construction, to help keep pace with job creation. This has obviously supported the construction ecosystem here, with an additional 1,500 jobs in the sector. The common (although maybe not an extremely useful) economic indicator that cranes in a city demonstrate a healthy economy is certainly visible in the heart of London over the past few years.

So what does this growth in numbers actually mean for the Square Mile, and how do we square it with warnings from many – including myself – that jobs are currently at risk?

The point is that much of this growth depends on the opportunities offered by our access to global markets. If Brexit undermines that, and if it causes fragmentation and disruption, we may see the trend going in reverse.

This was a point I was consistently making in my meetings with politicians and business representatives during what has been a busy three weeks at the conferences for the Liberal Democrat, Labour, and Conservative parties. I reminded all the politicians whom I spoke to that the City, while an economic powerhouse, a major creator, and huge contributor to tax revenues, cannot and must not be taken for granted.

Businesses need clarity and progress on our future relationship with the EU. This is why the City and indeed this paper have been crystal clear in calling for a financial services position paper from the government.

Conference season is over. It’s time for the politicians to get on with the serious task in hand. We really need to see some serious advances now in our negotiations with the EU.

Read more: We must safeguard the internationalist outlook that makes London thrive

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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