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As the capital city of Wales, Cardiff is the main engine of growth in the Welsh economy; the city has been developing as a significant service centre and economic driver for the wider south east Wales economy. The city and the adjoining Vale of Glamorgan contribute a disproportionately high share of economic output in Wales. The Cardiff Travel to Work Area has grown significantly since 1991; the 2001-based version includes much of the central South Wales Valleys in addition to the Vale of Glamorgan.

In the 19th century, the economy of Cardiff benefitted most from coal exportation and steel production. Cardiff's port became the world's most important coal port, handling more than London and Liverpool.

Today, Cardiff is a centre for white-collar professions. The city relies principally on the retail, finance, media and tourism sectors, and has been undergoing major regeneration since the late 20th century particularly in Cardiff city centre and Cardiff Bay.

Economic data


The economy of Cardiff and adjacent areas makes up nearly 20% of Welsh GDP and 40% of the city's workforce are daily in-commuters from the surrounding south Wales area.


Capital Tower, Cardiff
Capital Tower

Total employment in Cardiff stood at 190,948 in 2008, a rise from 149,000 in 1991 to 176,700 in 2005, and has been growing at around 2005 per annum in recent years, almost double the rate across Great Britain (1.3%). In addition, an estimated 18,000 people are self-employed, taking the total workforce to around 194,000. Following the decline of the city's heavy industry in the latter part of the 20th century, the economy of Cardiff is now dominated by the service sector (see table of employment by industry below) with just 9% of employees – 15,650 individuals – engaged in manufacturing activities.

Public administration, education and health is the largest sector in Cardiff, providing employment for 32% of the city's workforce. Cardiff is the main financial and business services centre in Wales and as such, the sector provides employment for 20% of the city's workforce. This sector, combined with the Public Administration, Education and Health sectors, have accounted for around 75% of Cardiff's economic growth since 1991.

20.4% of employees in Cardiff are based in the distribution, hotels and restaurants sector, highlighting the growing retail and tourism industries in the city. A major £675 million regeneration programme for Cardiff's St. David's Centre was carried out between 2006 and 2009 which provides a total of 1,400,000 square feet (130,000 m2) of shopping space, making it one of the largest shopping centres in the United Kingdom.

Cardiff has above average levels of employment in the financial services sector in comparison with Wales and Great Britain as a whole. The city has above average representation in sectors such as financial services, the provision of call centres, TV and film, and the manufacture of pharmaceutical preparations. Employment growth sectors in Cardiff have, to an extent, mirrored national trends, with particularly high levels of growth in construction, distribution, hotels and restaurants, transport and communications, banking, finance and insurance, and public administration, education and health.


In 2010, the city had an unemployment rate of 4.4% - although this represents a slight increase from the 2.2% recorded in 2004 when it compared favourably with the Wales average of 5.2% and the United Kingdom average of around 8%,. In 2010 unemployment in Cardiff was higher than the Wales and UK rates, but lower than in Birmingham, Liverpool, Glasgow and Manchester. Unemployment in Cardiff is concentrated in the southern areas of the city, and is highest in the Butetown ward.

Unemployment has risen considerably in Cardiff. Between 2000 and 2008 the total number of unemployment claimants in Cardiff stood at around 5,000. By 2010 this figure had risen to around 10,000. Claimant rate in Cardiff is significantly higher for men (6.0%) than for the city's female (2.2%) population.


Trend of regional gross value added of Cardiff and the Vale at basic prices 1995 - 2003.
(figures in millions of British Pounds Sterling)
Year Regional GVA Agriculture Industry Services
1995 4,753 11 1,110 3,632
2000 6,584 10 1,302 5,277
2003 8,201 11 1,374 6,816
2005 8,978 11 1,465 7,502
2007 9,432 11 1,565 7,856

Average earnings for workers in Cardiff lead the all Wales average. As of 2009 full-time gross weekly earnings in Cardiff stood at almost £460, compared with almost £490 for the UK, and £440 for Wales. Earnings in Cardiff have grown 45% between 1998 and 2009, more or less mirroring the UK and Wales average trends.

At £483.20, average weekly earnings for residents in Cardiff are relatively close to the UK average of £488.70, and significantly greater than the Welsh average of £444.90. As average residents in the city are earning more than the average worker, this implies that those travelling into the city to work earn less than those who live in Cardiff. Average earnings for residents in Cardiff are higher than many other major UK cities, such as Birmingham, Leeds and Liverpool, although they do still lag the UK average as well as Bristol and Edinburgh.


In 2007, Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan had a GDP of £9.432 billion GBP. In the same year, Gross Value Added per head was £21,195. This figure is higher than both the Welsh and UK GVA per head at £14,853 and £19,951 respectively, as well as cities including Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool. Total GVA growth between 1995 and 2007 was 91%.


Out of 197,000 workers in Cardiff in 2008, 126,100 live in the city and 70,900 commute from the surrounding region. 27,100 people who live in Cardiff commute out of the city.


Overall Cardiff's qualified population consistently outperforms the Wales and UK averages by some distance. This is partly determined by demographics, with Cardiff's relatively young population, and also the existence of a number of universities in the South East Wales region. In 2008, 38.5% of the city's population were qualified with an NVQ4+, compared to 26.5% in Wales and 28.9% in the UK. The proportion of Cardiff's working age population with no qualifications is lower than the Wales and UK averages. 11.1% in the city had no formal qualification, compared to 14.1% in Wales and 12.7% in the UK.

Cardiff is also particularly highly qualified in comparison with other cities in the UK. 32% of its residents have a degree or equivalent. Of the major cities outside London, only Edinburgh and Brighton have a higher proportion of its working age population with a degree or equivalent.

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