Labour Market Report


The Labour Market report provides an assessment of West Yorkshire’s skills needs based on a detailed analysis of the supply and demand of skills in the area. It examines the strengths and weaknesses of the local labour market, including structural factors which may continue to impact the region in the future.

The information outlined in the report is designed to inform local policy development, as well as curriculum strategies of local institutions. Organisations are encouraged to use the data provided to plan recruitment and training strategies, whilst educational practitioners may find the data useful in advising young people in their career plans.

Users may browse all sections of the report by scrolling, or jump directly to sections of interest using the navigation bar at the top of the page. Resource packs relating to key sections are available to download.

This online resource highlights the key information in the 2021 Labour Market Report. Click below for the full report.

West Yorkshire

To begin with, here is a quick overview of our region.

West Yorkshire is a Mayoral combined authority and metropolitan county which consists of five local authorities: City of Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, City of Leeds and City of Wakefield.

The region is the economic and geographic heart of Yorkshire and an essential component of the Northern Powerhouse.  Lying at the centre of the UK, within one hour’s drive of 7 million people, it comprises 1.6% of the land area of England.

West Yorkshire is a vibrant, internationally-significant economy, with a population of over 2.3 million, output of £55 billion, 92,000 private sector businesses and an employed workforce of 1.1 million.

In addition, West Yorkshire is the UK’s largest regional finance centre and contains more manufacturing jobs than anywhere else in the North.

The Local Landscape

From productivity to average pay, take a look at some essential information about our region.

West Yorkshire faces a gender pay gap that is smaller than the England average. 

The overall pay gap for all employee jobs locally is 12%, somewhat below the national average of 17%.  The size of this gap partly reflects the fact that women are more likely to work in part-time roles which attract a lower hourly rate of pay.  At 6%, the gap for full-time jobs is smaller and also lower than the national average, but still substantial. 

The local gender pay gap has consistently been below the England average in recent years but the underlying trend over time remained fairly flat until 2019. The gap for all jobs fell from 18% to 12% in 2020.

Skills Deficit

Neighbourhood-level deprivation is impacted by a skills deficit within our region.

According to the English indices of deprivation 2019, 22% of neighbourhoods in West Yorkshire are among the 10% most deprived nationally, more than twice the share one would expect.  There are 302 acutely deprived neighbourhoods in West Yorkshire that fall into this category.

Moreover, 83% of West Yorkshire neighbourhoods that fall within the most deprived overall are also classed among the most deprived 10% in terms of education, skills and training, showing the strong correlation between the two.

Sectoral Employment Profile

The sectoral make-up of a local area is an important determinant of the workforce skills that are required.  In our region, the local employment rate has been consistently below the national average since the last recession.

The employment rate in West Yorkshire, expressed as a proportion of the population aged 16-64, is 3% below the national average at 74% (versus 77%) as of July 2019 to June 2020.  This is a substantial deficit since an additional 40,000 people would be in employment in West Yorkshire if the employment rate could be raised to the national average.

In addition to Health and Social care, there is also significant further employment in other public sector-based occupations, including Education (99,000; 9%) and Public Administration and Defence (43,000; 4%).

Overall, there are 198,000 public sector employee jobs locally, based on the Office for National Statistics’ broader definition.  This equates to 19% of total employment, only slightly higher than the national average of 16%.  The proportion ranges from 15% in Calderdale to 21% in Wakefield and 22% in Bradford.

Manufacturing, Energy and Utilities, and Financial Services are strongly represented in the area’s employment base relative to the national benchmark.

Manufacturing is particularly strongly represented in West Yorkshire.  In proportionate terms, it is around a third larger than nationally (location quotient of 1.32).  Manufacturing activities which have a high quotient but are also significant in absolute terms include manufacture of: food, textiles, chemicals, fabricated metal products, machinery and furniture.

Water Supply / Sewerage, and Electricity / Gas are also strongly concentrated locally, although both are small in absolute terms with 9,000 and 5,000 jobs respectively. Financial Service activities account for 42,000 jobs in West Yorkshire.

Overall, employment in higher skilled management, professional and associate professional occupations is under-represented in West Yorkshire.  These occupations account for 47% of total employment compared with 50% nationally.  In absolute terms this represents a deficit of 33,000 fewer people in higher skilled employment.

The changing profile of occupational employment provides an important insight into the evolving demand for skills in the local labour market.

The remaining occupations which saw the strongest growth were higher skilled, including business and public service associate professionals (+15,000; +20%), corporate managers (+14,000; +21%), and science, research, engineering and technology professionals (+11,000). 

Employment in administrative occupations has also grown substantially (+10,000; +13%), although over the longer-term, employment in this category has been on a general downward path.

Demand for skills

Here is an overview of the demand for skills in our region, including sector-specific requirements and the most in-demand skills.

Job growth since 2012 has happened across a range of sectors, with Manufacturing and Services sharing in the growth.

Employment growth has been driven principally by higher skilled occupations as well as lower skilled caring occupations.

Communication is the skill most commonly highlighted in postings for higher skilled jobs.

Health, digital and teaching roles are featured among those in greatest current demand based on online job postings.

Skills like project management, budgeting, teamwork / collaboration and core technical skills are the most in-demand in the LEP’s priority areas of Engineering, Construction, Digital and Health.

Around two-thirds of employers expect future upskilling needs. They are most likely to highlight their managers as being affected.

Recent patterns of occupational employment change are expected to persist in the future, but replacement demands will be the source of most job openings.

Jobs based on routine tasks and skills are the most susceptible to automation, but an increasing range of jobs will be affected by computerisation.

The Most In-Demand Skills

From baseline skills to specialised skills, take a look at those that require development among the local workforce.

Communication is the baseline skill that is in the greatest demand by far, followed by skills such as organisation, attention to detail, planning, creativity and problem solving. The hierarchy of the top baseline skills in greatest demand has remained largely unchanged in spite of COVID-19.  Although the proportion of vacancies requiring communication skills has fallen slightly it remains the most in-demand skill by far. It is notable that social interaction / communication, creativity and problem solving are among those that are classed as most difficult to automate.

    As with baseline skills, the specialised skills in greatest demand have remained broadly the same over time, although some skill types have increased their share of total postings whilst others have seen a reduction. 

    Customer service, teaching, and teamwork / collaboration are the specialist skills in greatest demand. The proportion of postings for which customer service and sales skills were required fell, perhaps reflecting the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on retail and other customer-facing sectors.  Teaching and accounting skills saw increases in their shares of total postings. However, it is important to remember that these modest changes, which may be linked to COVID-19, may not prove to be long-lasting.

    The Supply of Skills Part 1

    Take a look at a snapshot of skills shortages in our region.

    • Skill shortages are most numerous in high employment service sectors but are most acute in primary, construction and manufacturing sectors.
    • Shortages are most numerous and most acute in professional and skilled trade occupations. More specifically, health professionals and STEM professionals face acute shortages.
    • One in seven employers are affected by skills gaps. Sales, customer service, and administrative staff are most affected by gaps.
    • Skills underutilisation is widespread.
    • Structural joblessness is still a major feature of the local labour market.
    • There are disparities between the profile of HE and FE provision and labour market demand.
    • EU migrants are concentrated in routine and low-skilled occupations. This is where labour supply issues could be concentrated as a result of Brexit.
    • The gap between the number of high skilled people and the number of people in high skilled jobs continues to narrow.

      The Supply of Skills Part 2

      One of the key challenges facing West Yorkshire is a deficit in its skills base relative to other parts of the UK.  This is closely linked to its underperformance on productivity and innovation.

      West Yorkshire has fewer people qualified at Level 4 and above than nationally (7% below the national average). Instead, its qualification profile is skewed towards people with no qualifications or who are qualified at the lowest level (below Level 2).

      West Yorkshire is relatively strong in terms of the proportion of people who hold their highest qualification at an intermediate level i.e. at Level 2 and Level 3.

      The proportion of people of working age with no qualifications in West Yorkshire also remained the same in 2019, although it did fall by 3% in the previous year. In spite of ongoing improvements in West Yorkshire’s qualification profile there is no evidence that the gap with the national average is narrowing.

      Although the proportion of people qualified at Level 4 and above is similar to the national average in Leeds, in Wakefield it is 12% lower (at 28%), and it is 14% lower in Bradford (at 26%).  Moreover, 14% of the working age population in Bradford have no formal qualifications, twice the national proportion.

      Skills Shortages

      Around a quarter of all vacancies in West Yorkshire are skill shortage vacancies. Here you’ll find information on skill shortages generally and split by occupation.

      Skill shortages occur when employers find it hard to fill their vacancies because the available candidates lack the necessary skills, qualifications and experience to do the job.

      A deficit of technical or practical skills of some kind is linked to more than 80% of skill shortage vacancies.  However, other skills including customer handling, team-working and time management are also highlighted by employers.

      Skills Gaps

      We know that our region has a relatively high number of skills shortage vacancies. Here you can find out about the prevalence of skills gaps by industry sector. 

      Skills gaps are another form of skills mismatch. They come about when existing employees within an organisation are not fully proficient in their job and are not able to make the required contribution to the achievement of business or public service objectives. 

      15% of employers are affected by skills gaps, with administrative, sales and customer service staff most susceptible to gaps.

      Skills gaps are more widespread and numerous than skill shortages.  There are approximately 51,000 gaps in the region, equivalent to 5% of total employment.  This proportion is similar to the national average.

      The prevalence of skills gaps as a proportion of total employment is broadly similar across the five local authorities of West Yorkshire, although it is somewhat higher in Calderdale and slightly lower in Kirklees and Wakefield. 

      The proportion of employers who report having a skills gap is highest in Wakefield at 19%, suggesting that gaps are thinly spread across organisations in Wakefield. This proportion is between 14% and 15% in the remaining local authorities.

      A lack of the required 'soft' skills is common across the workforce, including 'self-management' skills such as time management, emotion management, teamwork and persuading / influencing others.  Management, whether it be aspects of self-management or leading / managing staff within the organisation, is a key element of skills gaps, together with sales and customer handling skills.

      Qualification Attainment of Young People

      The current skills gaps found in our region can be linked to West Yorkshire’s qualification deficit.

      Young people in West Yorkshire are less likely to have achieved a Level 2 qualification by the age of 19 than their national counterparts.  The proportion overall is 78%, compared to 83% in England on average.  Two districts (Calderdale and Kirklees) match the national average, but Leeds and Bradford are 7% and 10% below average respectively.

      This underperformance at Level 2 feeds through into a wider gap at Level 3.  Only 52% of young people have achieved Level 3 by the age of 19, compared to the national average of 60%.  Again, Calderdale and Kirklees perform close to the national average but Bradford is 14% behind the average at 46%.

      This relatively poor performance on qualification attainment at age 19 constrains entry into higher education and helps to perpetuate West Yorkshire’s skills deficit.

      Current Job Postings

      A useful way of understanding demand is by examining the types of jobs that are being advertised via online job postings.  This gives an insight into current recruitment levels and patterns as well as providing an insight into the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on labour demand this year.

      The level of recruitment activity in the local labour market was profoundly affected by the COVID-19 lockdown, with the level of weekly postings falling by 56% in the period between March 14 and May 9 2020.  However, from that point onwards postings recovered steadily in West Yorkshire.

      In broad terms, the occupational profile of West Yorkshire’s job postings is very similar to the national average, reflecting the diversity of the local economy.

      Higher skilled occupations account for a slightly smaller proportion of total postings locally compared with nationally, at a combined 58% versus 60%.  In particular, postings for health professionals are under-represented in West Yorkshire.

      Postings for caring personal service and elementary administration and service roles also are also lower locally than the national average.  The latter deficit reflects the smaller proportion of hospitality and cleaning vacancies in West Yorkshire.

      Growth Areas in Online Job Postings

      Several occupational areas have increased their share of total postings, suggesting resilient demand for the associated skills in the face of the COVID-19 crisis. 

      This increase is mostly in higher skilled occupations, with the most substantial increases being seen for the following:

      • Corporate managers – with increased shares for a variety of manager roles including financial managers, marketing and sales managers, and health service managers.
      • Science, research, engineering and technology professionals – driven primarily by strong demand for digital professionals including programmers and software developers (although there was reduced demand in this category for some engineering occupations).
      • Health professionals – driven principally by strong demand for nurses.
      Caring roles and roles linked to transport / logistics have also grown.

      A range of occupations requiring intermediate and lower level skills also grew their share of postings between 2019 and 2020:

      • Caring personal service occupations – with net increases in postings for care workers / home carers and teaching assistants.
      • Van drivers and large goods vehicle drivers – a greater emphasis has been placed on transport and logistics during the crisis with the increased reliance on online shopping.
      • Elementary trades – with strong demand for elementary storage trades, again reflecting the increased importance of transport and logistics as a result of COVID-19 restrictions.
      Health, care, digital and administrative roles are among the highest in demand.

      Office / administrative assistant was the top occupation in 2019 based on the volume of job postings. However, as noted above, administration demand has been adversely affected by COVID-19 and it falls to number 3 in the 2020 rankings.  Other occupations to see a reduction were customer service representative, account manager and project manager.

      Several occupations saw an increase in their share of job postings, most notably software developer, registered general nurse, personal care aide and teaching assistant.  This reflects the general trend described above, of resilient demand for digital, health and care workers.  There was also a marked increase in the share of total postings for accountant roles.


      There were 14,650 apprenticeship starts in West Yorkshire in the 2019/20 academic year, however take-up fell by more than a fifth. Here you’ll find information on trends including age, level and subject area.

      In West Yorkshire, apprenticeship starts fell by 4,190 (-22%) compared with the previous year, somewhat faster than the England average rate of -18%.  This follows an increase of 9% in 2018/19 and a decline of 25% in 2017/18.  Local starts in 2019/20 were 38% lower than at their peak in 2015/16.


      During 2018/19, 45% of starts were apprentices aged 25 and over, with the remainder split fairly evenly between the under-19s and 19-24s.

      Starts among the under-19s fell most rapidly in 2019/20 – by 27% compared with 20% for 19-24-year-olds and 21% for those aged 25+.  All age bands saw a sharper decline than nationally (under-19: -22%; 19-24: -18%; 25+: -16%).


      During 2019/20, starts on intermediate apprenticeships accounted for 32% of total starts (down from 37% in the previous academic year and from 54% in 2016/17), advanced apprenticeship starts contributed 45% (similar to the previous year) and higher apprenticeships contributed 23% (up from 19% in 2018/19 and only 6% in 2016/17).


      Based on location of learner residence, Leeds contributed the greatest number of apprenticeship starts during 2019/20 (33% of the West Yorkshire total) followed by Bradford (21%), Kirklees (18%), Wakefield (also 18%) and Calderdale (9%).

      All districts saw a decline in starts in 2019/20, ranging from -17% in Wakefield to -26% in Leeds.  The other districts were close to the average decline for West Yorkshire (Bradford: -23%, Calderdale: -21%, Kirklees: -20%).


      Private-sector public funded providers delivered 8,532 apprenticeship starts in West Yorkshire in 2019/20, a majority (58%) of total starts.  This figure represents a decline of 27% on the previous academic year, slightly higher than the overall decline of 22%.

      General FE colleges contributed 4,563 starts, 31% of the total.  College starts fell by 17% compared with 2018/19.

      Other publicly-funded providers (including local authorities and HEIs) were responsible for 10% of total starts but saw a fall of only 7% year on year.

      Subject Area

      All but one of the 11 subject areas saw a decline in the number of starts in 2019/20 – the exception being Construction, which grew by 14% (+160 starts).  The subjects seeing the most significant falls were Health, Public Services and Care (-1,620; -30%), Business, Administration and Law (-1,500; -26%), Retail and Commercial Enterprise (-720; -34%) and Information Technology (-260; -29%). Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies did better than average with a fall of -7% (-190) in 2019/20 but this follows several years of decline in this subject.

      Higher Apprenticeships

      The number of higher apprenticeship starts in West Yorkshire decreased by 4% in 2019/20. 

      The biggest subject areas in terms of starts all declined: Business, Administration and Law (primarily comprising Management apprenticeships) fell by 140 (-7%), followed by Information and Communication Technology (-110; -30%) and Health, Public Services and Care, albeit to a lesser extent (-70, -7%).

      However, several subject areas grew, most notably Construction (+110, +54%) and Education and Training (+60, +112%).

      However, there is a continuing concern that higher apprenticeship availability in the local area is narrowly concentrated in a few subject areas, with a combined 75% of all higher level starts falling within Business, Administration and Law (50%) and Health, Public Services and Care (25%).

      The number of higher apprenticeships in the technical areas of construction, engineering and information technology have all grown in the last three years but from a low base; they currently account for 9%, 3% and 7% of total higher apprenticeship starts respectively.  

      Engineering and construction, in particular, are occupational areas which offer an especially valuable mechanism for addressing skills needs in these parts of the economy.

      Higher Education

      With 92,900 students enrolled during the 2018/19 academic year, West Yorkshire has one of the largest higher education sectors outside London. 

      There was a net inflow of 34,000 students into the area during the academic year, based on the fact that there were 31,000 HE students from West Yorkshire who studied elsewhere, compared with 65,000 students from outside West Yorkshire (including foreign students) who came to study at local institutions.

      The subject profile of qualifiers has also remained broadly stable over time with Computer Science accounting for 3% of the total (~600 per annum), Engineering & Technology for 5% (~1,200 per annum) and Architecture, Building & Planning around 1-2% (~3-400 per annum).

      Attraction and retention of graduates in the regional economy is key to maximising the economic benefits of higher education.  In 2017/18, around 45% of qualifiers from West Yorkshire institutions were in employment in Yorkshire and the Humber 15 months after graduation, with 22% in employment in West Yorkshire itself. 

      It is important to note that disadvantaged pupils in West Yorkshire are less likely to enter higher education.

      Pupils in Wakefield and Leeds are much less likely to go into higher education than the national average.  Conversely, Calderdale and Kirklees have rates that are above the national average.

      The local authorities with low entry rates also have very low entry rates among disadvantaged pupils eligible for free school meals: 14% in Wakefield and 19% in Leeds. This compares with a national average rate of 26%.

      It is notable that Bradford and Kirklees have the highest entry rates for FSM pupils in the region. They also have the lowest 'disadvantage gaps' and both outperform the national average.

      Work Experience and Work Inspiration

      Relevant work experience is key to employers’ recruitment decisions. Here are the factors employers look for when recruiting.

      The Employer Skills Survey 2019 measures the relative importance of a number of factors in employers' recruitment decisions. These include academic qualifications (Maths and English GCSE A*-C – or 9-4 under the new system – as well as the broad range of academic qualifications), vocational qualifications (VQs), and relevant work experience. 61% of employers in Leeds City Region rated relevant work experience as either critical or significant. 

      The survey finds that 36% of employers in the LEP area offer work experience placements of some kind, similar to the England average of 35%.

      Employers are most likely to offer placements for school pupils, followed by people at college and then by people at university.  Around 29% of employers provided some kind of education placement.  Only 4% of employers provided placements targeting the unemployed.

      Future Trends in Employment

      Here you’ll find information on future employment trends and where the fastest growth is expected to appear.

      The primary sources of net job growth in West Yorkshire over the next decade are forecast to be service-based in the form of

      Other sectors will also see net growth but at a smaller level in absolute terms, including...

      The fastest rates of growth will be seen in Arts and Entertainment and Health and Social Work, followed by Professional Services and Support Services.

      The industries with the poorest prospects based on the forecasts are mainly within the Manufacturing and Primary sectors of the economy.  Much of the Manufacturing sector, including food manufacturing (-5,000), is expected to see a marked net decline in jobs, largely continuing longer-term trends.

      Some sectors could see a boost to forecast growth, such as Health and Social work. Others may be impacted negatively, such as Arts and Entertainment, Hospitality, Agriculture and parts of Manufacturing. 

      According to Working Futures, the West Yorkshire is expected to see overall job growth of 2%, slightly lower than forecast UK growth of 3%.

      Higher Skilled Occupations to Grow Faster

      Significant net employment growth is expected for higher level occupations, including managers, all professional occupations and most associate professional occupations.

      Between 2017 and 2027, employment in professional jobs is expected to increase by 31,000 (11%), associate professional roles by 7,000 (9%) and managerial roles by 17,000 (11%).  For each of these occupations the growth rate is several times the average projected rate of growth of 2%.  Taken together, these three occupational groups have a combined predicted growth rate of 11% (growth of 65,000 in absolute terms), around five times the average rate.

      Middle Skilled Occupations to Decline

      The most pronounced net decreases are expected for secretarial roles (projected net decline of -45%), textiles, printing and other skilled trades (-22%) and skilled metal, electrical and electronic trades (-16%). 

      Employment in administrative occupations – the largest middle-skilled occupational area by far – is projected to decline less rapidly, with an employment decrease of -5%.

      Employment in skilled construction and building trades is expected to remain largely static (decline of -2%), although employment performance in construction is notoriously volatile. 

      Caring Personal Service Jobs to Grow

      Caring personal services is the subgroup expected to see the largest growth in absolute terms, with around 24,000 net additional jobs (a growth rate of 19%).

      Employment in elementary administration and service roles is projected to remain broadly static (-1%).  Elementary trades employment is projected to fall by 2%.

      Growth in customer service jobs (+6,000, +16%) is projected to be offset by a net decline in sales occupation employment (-9,000, -9%).

      Over the next decade, replacement demands are expected to generate around 19 times as many job openings in West Yorkshire as those arising from net job growth.  This is higher than the ratio set out in the last iteration of Working Futures as the latest projections assume that net employment growth will be lower.

      In absolute terms this equates to around 27,000 job openings resulting from net growth and 515,000 openings arising from replacement needs, giving a total number of job openings (net requirement) of approximately 542,000.

      Replacement Demands

      Job openings are expected in all broad occupational groups including those that are projected to see net decline.

      For example, in the case of middle-skilled occupations (administrative, secretarial and skilled trades) there is a projected net decline of 42,000 jobs. This is expected to be offset by 101,000 job openings arising out of replacement demands.  Replacement demands tend to be much more significant than any net change in the level of jobs, meaning that we can still expect some job openings across nearly all broad occupational groups. 

      However, employment in secretarial roles is projected to fall at such a rapid rate that it will exceed the job openings arising from replacement needs, implying very poor prospects.  Individuals need to consider this when making careers decisions and employers need to be conscious of the need to replace key workers.


      Here you’ll find information on the risk of automation based on occupation.

      Firstly, there is evidence to suggest that the effects of the COVID-19 crisis may accelerate the impact of automation on jobs.  Secondly, many workers may need to retrain for new roles as a result of the crisis.  In selecting a fresh career path, individuals need to understand how it susceptible it is to automation.

      The data show that lower level, routine or physical skills are at the highest risk of automation, whilst roles with the lowest risk are those requiring more analytical and interpersonal skills.

      Higher skilled occupations are uniformly resistant to automation, reflecting the importance of skills such as creativity and social intelligence to these jobs, which are more difficult to computerise. 

      Employment in the LEP area is strongly represented in the intermediate and lower skilled occupations that are more susceptible to automation, including specific areas like skilled metal, electrical and electronic trades and customer service roles.