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Economy of Leeds facts for kids

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Central Business District

The economy of Leeds is diverse, with the service sector now dominating over the traditional manufacturing industries. Leeds was voted 'Britain's Best City for Business' by Omis Research in 2003 but dropped to 3rd place behind Manchester and Glasgow in 2005 ("Relative under-performance over the past two years in transport improvements and cost competitiveness were the major contributing factors"). Between 2002 and 2012, the economy of Leeds grew 39%, which is below national growth of 44%. Leeds' economy suffered particularly badly following the 2008-10 Great Recession, with one of the sharpest economic contractions of any city in the UK, and by the end of 2012 remained 2.6% behind its peak output in 2008.

Leeds' growth has helped to change the economic geography of the United Kingdom, as Leeds is now one of the largest financial centres in Britain outside the capital. New tertiary industries such as retail, call centres, offices and media have contributed to a high rate of economic growth since the early 1990s.

Economic Indices

Below is a collection of economic indices featuring Leeds. It is important to remember that while useful, surveys and indicators have limitations, and are at times subjective and incomplete. For example, no complete list of factors affecting quality of life can be created, and the way people weight these factors differs.

Quality of Life

  • 5th in the UK for quality of life (2013), according to a rating of the UK's 12 largest cities. The cities were assessed on a range of factors including property market activity, rental costs, salary levels, disposable income growth, cost of living, unemployment rates and life satisfaction.
  • 4th most deprived local authority in England in terms of income and employment according to the 2010 English Indices of Deprivation.
  • 15th in the UK amongst big cities for 'cycle-friendliness' (2010).


Cushman & Wakefield European Cities Monitor (2010) - A survey based on the views of 500 European businesses of Europe's leading business cities.

  • Overall 23rd in Europe, 4th in the UK after London, Manchester and Birmingham, best city to locate a business based on factors which are disaggregated below.
  • 16th in Europe, 4th in the UK after London, Birmingham and Manchester, for ease of access to markets, customers or clients.
  • 17th in Europe, 4th in the UK after London, Manchester and Birmingham, for best qualified staff.
  • 20th in Europe, 4th in the UK after London, Manchester and Birmingham, for quality of telecommunications.
  • 18th in Europe, 4th in the UK after London, Manchester and Birmingham, for external transport links to other cities and internationally.
  • 1st in Europe and the UK in terms of value for money of office space.
  • 10th in Europe, 1st= in the UK with Glasgow, for cost of staff.
  • 7th in Europe, 3rd in the UK after Manchester and Birmingham, for availability of office space.
  • 21st in Europe, 5th in the UK after London, Manchester, Glasgow and Birmingham, for climate governments create for businesses.
  • 24th in Europe, 4th in the UK after London, Birmingham and Manchester, in terms of languages spoken.
  • 15th in Europe, 3rd in the UK after London, and Manchester for ease of travelling around within the city.

In the same survey, when asked how well companies know each of the cities as a business location, 19% said they were familiar with Leeds as a business location. This was the 6th highest in the UK after London (82%), Manchester (33%), Birmingham (28%), Edinburgh (25%) and Glasgow (21%).


See also: List of UK cities by GVA
GVA for Leeds 2002-2012
Year GVA (£million) Growth (%)
2002 13,480 Increase07.4%
2003 14,495 Increase07.5%
2004 15,629 Increase07.8%
2005 16,729 Increase07.0%
2006 17,651 Increase05.5%
2007 18,807 Increase06.5%
2008 19,263 Increase02.4%
2009 18,110 Decrease06.0%
2010 18,126 Increase00.1%
2011 18,838 Increase03.9%
2012 18,767 Decrease00.4%

In 2012, Leeds' GVA was £18.8bn ($33.2bn) accounting for 1.4% of UK GVA. It also accounts for 44% of the GVA of West Yorkshire, and 20% of the GVA of Yorkshire and Humber. Leeds is by far the largest centre of economic activity in the Yorkshire and Humber region: it is 80% higher than Sheffield's and 117% higher than Bradford's, for example. Compared with other major UK cities and conurbations, its GVA is exceeded only by London (comprising five NUTS 3 areas - £309.3bn), Greater Manchester South (£34.8bn) and Birmingham (£21.2bn).

In 2012, the economy of Leeds remained 2.6% behind its peak output in 2008.

Over the last 10 years, GVA growth in Leeds was marginally lower than West Yorkshire, but equal to the region as a whole. Growth was also lower than the UK as a whole. Over the last 5 years, again it was lower in these three areas.

Total GVA and GVA per head, 2012
Area GVA (£million) Annual GVA growth (%) GVA (£ per head) GVA per head growth (%)
Leeds 18,767 Decrease00.4% 24,770 Decrease01.3%
West Yorkshire 42,907 Increase01.3% 19,149 Increase00.7%
Core Cities average 16,036 Increase02.6% 22,267 Increase01.6%

excluding Leeds, included Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield


GVA per employee in Leeds is estimated to be £46,900 per employee in 2012. It is higher than other areas in the region, but lower than London. It was higher than all other NUTS 3 areas except Edinburgh (£54,100). Growth between 2007 and 2012 was 7% - equal 9th of all comparable 18 NUTS 3 areas.

GVA per employee, 2011
Area GVA per worker (£) GVA per worker % change 2006-11
Leeds 43,000 Increase08%
Core Cities average 32,700 Increase011.7%

excluding Leeds, included Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield

GVA by sector

Industry breakdown, 2011
Sector Value
(£ millions)
2010-11 (%)
% of total
Agriculture, forestry and fishing 41 Increase07.9 0.2
Production 2,217 Decrease02.2 11.8
- of which manufacturing 1,532 Decrease00.1 8.1
Construction 1,065 Increase05.0 5.7
Distribution; transport; accommodation and food 3,028 Increase06.5 16.1
Information and communication 1,221 Increase07.3 6.5
Financial and insurance services 2,094 Decrease013.4 11.1
Real estate activities 2,421 Increase023.5 12.9
Business service activities 2,570 Increase07.9 13.6
Public administration, education and health 3,555 Increase01.7 18.9
Other services and household activities 627 Increase09.6 3.3
Total 18,838 Increase03.9


According to the 2012 Eurostat figures, GDP per capita (in euros) of Greater Manchester is = €27,500 just ahead the West-Midlands with €26,600 but only half the GDP per capita of Dublin €57,200 or London with €54,200.

Greater Manchester has a total GDP of €74.398 bn, West Midlands has a total GDP of €73.538 bn but less than the €85.700 bn in Greater Dublin and €450.379 bn in Greater London.


Christmas shopping on King Edward Street. Leeds Markets can be seen in the distance.

Leeds was described in 2005 by the Lonely Planet guides as the 'Knightsbridge of the North'. The range of shopping facilities, from individual one-off boutiques to large department stores such as Harvey Nichols and Louis Vuitton outlets, has greatly expanded the Leeds retail base. The Victoria Quarter, several existing arcades connected together by roofing the entirety of Queen Victoria Street with stained glass, is located off Briggate, Leeds' main shopping street. Other popular shopping attractions include Leeds Kirkgate Market, Granary Wharf, Leeds Shopping Plaza, Headrow Shopping Centre, Crown Point Retail Park, The Light, The St John's Centre, The Merrion Centre Leeds, Birstall Retail Park and the White Rose Centre.

Leeds was ranked 9th in the league tables of top 50 UK retail centres in the Retailvision 2011 survey. This placed it ahead of Bristol and Leicester but behind Glasgow, Manchester and Birmingham. The city has fallen from its position in 2003 when it was ranked 3rd on Experian's list of UK shopping destinations. The next year it was overtaken by Birmingham to be ranked in 4th place. Leeds has an almost equal mix of premium retail and value stores, with premium accounting for 9.8% of all stores in the centre and value stores 9.3%. This balance is unusual for a top 10 ranked retail destination. The proposed Eastgate Quarters will enlarge the shopping area significantly, and is due to be anchored by John Lewis and a second Marks and Spencer store for the city. The Trinity Quarter is a large shopping development under construction that is due to open in March 2013. It is a part redevelopment of a run-down part of the city centre, and part re-modelling of the existing Leeds Shopping Plaza.


Leeds has received several accolades in the field of tourism; including being voted by Condé Nast Traveler magazine Readers' Awards as the "UK's favourite city" in 2004, "Best English city to visit outside London" in 2005, and also "Visitor city of the year" by The Good Britain Guide in 2005. Situated close to the UK's geographical centre, the city benefits from good transport connections with the M1 running from Leeds to London, the M62 connecting Leeds with Manchester and the seaport cities of Hull and Liverpool, and the A1(M) for linking to the north. Leeds Bradford International Airport is a rapidly growing regional UK airport, with an 87 per cent growth in terminal passenger numbers in the last five years. Over 450 weekly flights connect the city to over 70 major European business and holiday destinations.

Tourism in Leeds is estimated to support over 20,000 full-time equivalent jobs, and on average Leeds attracts around 1.5 million people annually who stay overnight, plus a further 10 million who visit on day trips. In 2009 Leeds was the 8th most visited city in England by UK visitors and the 13th most visited city by overseas visitors.

Visitors to the city bring nearly £735 million into the local economy each year. Major national and regional attractions include the Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds Art Gallery, the Henry Moore Institute and the West Yorkshire Playhouse. Leeds is also the only city outside London to have both its own opera and ballet companies – Opera North and Northern Ballet Theatre, both internationally renowned.

Throughout the summer high season, Leeds CitySightseeing buses run sightseeing tours, while Leeds City Cruisers operate regular river cruises.


Bridgewater place,Leeds
Bridgewater Place also known as 'The Dalek' taken in March 2012

In recent times Leeds has seen many new developments, with high rise schemes making a much larger mark on Leeds' skyline. Sixteen skyscrapers are currently under construction or proposed, all of them taller than West Riding House (262 ft or 80 m) – Leeds' tallest building from 1972–2005. Bridgewater Place, known locally as 'The Dalek', recently became the tallest building in Leeds. A taller building, the 561-foot (171 m) Lumiere building was planned to be finished by 2012 but building work has been put on hold as of 9 July 2008 owing to the state of the world economy. The plan for even taller 'Kissing Towers' of Criterion Place has been scrapped for similar reasons. Since postponing any further work on Lumiere, the developers have applied to Leeds City Council for the development to be revised, making it taller than the current proposals.

Leeds City Region Enterprise Zone was launched in April 2012 to promote development in four sites along the A63 East Leeds Link Road.

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