Monday 26 October 2020 3:12 pm

Deserted city centres slowing Britain's job recovery, research finds

Deserted high streets and city centres are hurting Britain’s jobs recovery, with urban areas including central London suffering the steepest declines in vacancies.

The latest research showed that seven months on from the introduction of the nationwide lockdown, work opportunities have failed to return to pre-pandemic levels across major UK towns and cities.

London has suffered a 52 per cent decline in job vacancies year on year – the sixth worst in the country- with just Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Belfast, Aldershot and Crawley facing steeper drops.

Cities have been badly affected by the continued home-working trend and loss of tourism, causing the collapse of local service jobs in sectors such as food, retail, arts and leisure, which are exposed to coronavirus restrictions.

UK vacancies have plummeted 46 per cent compared to this time last year, but areas where high street footfall has bounced back have seen job advertisements return.

Smaller towns such as Chatham, Stoke and Burnley recorded the shallowest declines, with vacancies falling seven per cent, 17 per cent and 18 per cent respectively, according to the research by think tank Centre for Cities and jobs website Indeed.

Centre for Cities chief executive Andrew Carter said: “While unemployment continues to rise, the number of jobs available to people who fund themselves out of work is far below its level last year in every single large city and town in the UK.

“This could have potentially catastrophic long-term consequences for people and the economy.

“The Government has told us to expect a tough winter and, while local lockdowns are necessary to protect lives, it is vital that ministers continue to listen and reassess the level of support given to help people and places to cope with the months ahead.”

Meanwhile, the latest data showed that footfall declined by 1.2 per cent across all UK retail destinations last week – compared to a drop of 3.1 per cent in the previous week, driven by a three per cent slump in high street shopper numbers.

Shopping centre footfall dipped 0.1 per cent and numbers rose 1.3 per cent at retail parks, according to analysis by Springboard. 

Footfall in England suffered the most modest decline, falling 0.9 per cent, while other Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland experienced sharper drops of 2.1 per cent, 3.8 per cent and 12.2 per cent respectively due to tighter restrictions.