Edinburgh's jobless total halved, economy booming and average pay higher than elsewhere

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Unemployment in Edinburgh has halved in the last decade and the city’s economy is listed as the UK’s most productive outside of London.

Job opportunities are among the best in the country and average pay in the Capital is higher than the other eight biggest cities in the UK excluding London.

Latest data on Edinburgh’s economy and employment is seen as evidence of the Capital’s swift rebound from the impact of Covid.    Latest data on Edinburgh’s economy and employment is seen as evidence of the Capital’s swift rebound from the impact of Covid.
Latest data on Edinburgh’s economy and employment is seen as evidence of the Capital’s swift rebound from the impact of Covid.

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The positive data, published by the city council in its latest edition of Edinburgh by Numbers, a collection of facts and figures tracking the state of the Capital, is seen as evidence of the city’s strength and resilience in the wake of Covid . And visitor numbers are recovering too following the pandemic.

Edinburgh’s unemployment rate, at 2.6 per cent, is now under half the 6.3 per cent rate it stood at in 2014. By 2020 it had dropped to 2.8 per cent, followed by an increase in 2021 to 4.4 per cent, after which it fell back to 2.9 per cent in 2022 and 2.6 per cent in 2023.

The median hourly pay in the Capital has risen to £17.70, which is the highest of the major UK cities excluding London.

The proportion of people in Edinburgh who are economically inactive but want a job is lower than the average of major UK cities. Over four fifths - 81.2 per cent - of the population between 16 and 64 years are in employment, which is the highest percentage of the eight main cities in the UK including London. The main reasons for being economically inactive in Edinburgh include being a student - 45.5 per cent - and being long-term sick - 22.8 per cent.

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And Edinburgh’s economy emerged as the UK’s most productive outside of London, with 32.7 per cent higher regional GVA per person - a measure of the value generated by an area - than Glasgow.

Edinburgh by Numbers also records that nearly three quarters of enterprises in Edinburgh - 72.1 per cent - are small companies with up to four employees, while only 1.43 per cent are enterprises with 100 or more employees.

And Edinburgh has a large proportion of workers in high-skilled roles. Almost half of the people in employment work in high-skilled occupations - 47 per cent - while just around 7 per cent work in low-skilled jobs..

The statistics show the health sector is Edinburgh’s biggest employer, with 53,000 people working in it - nearly 15 per cent of all jobs in the Capital. Next comes finance and insurance, which employs 41,000 - more than one in 10 of the city’s working population, which is close to three times as much as the average across other major UK cities.

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Edinburgh’s other top employment sectors are education with 36,000; professional scientific and technical with 35,000; and accommodation and food, with 34,000.

The number of tourists coming to Edinburgh is bouncing back, reaching 1.8 million in 2022 - still below the 2018 level of 2.5m, but above the 2015 figure of £1.6m. The United States accounted for the biggest number of visitors - 385,685 or 21 per cent of the total, followed by France, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands.

Roddy Smith, chief executive of Essential Edinburgh, which runs the city-centre Business Improvement District, backed the positive tone of Edinburgh by Numbers. “By any metric, Edinburgh is performing well,” he said.

But he cautioned: “That doesn’t mean businesses are making money. Turnover may be going up, but profits almost certainly are not, because their costs are going through the roof.

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“I think there’s no doubt we’re in a better position than most - and a lot of that has to do with the tourism sector. A lot of the inward investment is tourism-related and tourist numbers are coming back.”

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