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What are the best places to find a job and recruit talent?

When we talk about employment statistics, it’s always looking at the big picture of what is happening in the country as a whole, but may naturally miss a bit of local colour. A UK unemployment rate of 3.8% is not evenly spread from John O’Groats to Land’s End. Nor is the average salary the same across the UK.

So we wanted to take a look at some of the urban and suburban centres in England and Wales and have a look at how many vacancies there are per 1000 people, what the local advertised salaries are, and how these figures have changed. 

We used data from millions of adverts places on since January 2018, and focused on towns and cities with a population over 30,000 from ONS data for England and Wales. Here’s what we found:


Cambridge is the easiest place to find a job, and the hardest place to recruit


We regularly measure the number of jobseekers per vacancy across some of the UK’s major cities, and Cambridge is usually in the top 3. But taking a wider view and working out the number of vacancies per 1000 people, Cambridge once again comes out on top. 

With an average number of vacancies of 9,163 out of a population of just under 150,000, there are 61.23 vacancies per 1000 people in the city. This beats Chippenham into second place which has 49.76 vacancies per 1000 people (1777 vacancies from a population of 35,719). 

The top 10 is below, and none of them are places you should look to open your new office, unless you are confident of attracting top talent away from other businesses in the area. 


Kirkby is the hardest town to find a job


At the other end of the scale, if you want to find the best place to set up a business, you should definitely take a look at Kirkby. The Merseyside town has a population of around 43,368 but only 29 vacancies on average, meaning a vacancy per 1000 people of 0.66. Of course Kirkby is only a half-hour’s drive to Liverpool city centre (11.91 vacancies per 1000 people), but it will have to compete with Birkenhead, which is in the bottom 10 at number 7 (3 vacancies per 1000 people).

Elsewhere there aren’t huge regional patterns, with Yate in Gloucestershire coming second bottom, and Barry, Paignton and Hartlepool rounding out the bottom 5.


What’s changed? 


Overall there has been a 8.72% decrease in the number of vacancies in these towns, alongside a 19.8% decrease in the UK as a whole, suggesting that urban centres are less affected than their rural neighbours. 

But again, within that overall number there are a number of interesting stories. Such as the fact that the number of vacancies in York has grown 67.77% across the two years we looked at. In 2018 the average number of vacancies was 1320, but increased to 2215 in 2019. Despite being in the bottom 5, Hartlepool has also added vacancies at a significant rate, putting it at 5th on our overall list. 

Elsewhere Sheffield is the largest city to buck the trend and increase the vacancies, with an overall increase of 21.41%. Could this be a resurgence for the great Northern powerhouse? 

At the other end of the scale, Deal has suffered the greatest losses from 2018 to 2019, with average vacancies falling 68.24% (375 in 2018 to 119 in 2019). The Kent town leads the pack, alongside Nuneaton, Bridgend and Barry. Chippenham places 3rd, with average vacancies falling 55.17%, despite it being 2nd for jobs per 1000 people. 


What about salaries?

Across the UK the average advertised salary is currently £34,284, which has declined 1.9% year on year. But there is a wide discrepancy in terms of different towns, and what employers have to compete with in different areas.

At the top end of the scale is Barrow-In-Furness, where average advertised salaries over the past year have been £50,130. The explanation appears to be that a large proportion of these jobs are in engineering, which command salaries of around £400 a day, or just over £100,000 when taken to a yearly salary. 

Despite having few vacancies, Kirkby comes second, though the salary levels have dropped quite considerably to £31,213, quite a bit below the average. However our data shows that advertised salaries hit a peak of just over £50,000, and hovered around the £40,000 mark for most of the year. 

On the flip side, the average job with an advertised salary was only £25,313 in Coalville. The Leicestershire town appears to have customer service, warehouse operatives and carers as a large chunk of their jobs. 

Salary data should be taken with a pinch of salt in these cases as we only consider data where the salaries are advertised, which as our recent blog points out means we are discounting around a third of all roles from our data. When you consider some of the towns we look at have relatively few vacancies, that can leave any data open to a degree of volatility. 

So what does this tell us? 

Around 62% of the jobs in England and Wales are located within 172 towns and cities, while the number of people in these places is around 54% of the population (32.1 million out of 59.1 million). This suggests that the number of jobs is slightly disproportionately in cities and large towns. No great surprise perhaps, as there are more opportunities for businesses where there are more people. 

Elsewhere, your opportunities can vary hugely depending on where in the country you are, both in terms of the number of jobs you can apply for, and what salary you could expect to get. 

For employers looking into workforce planning and considering opening new locations, it’s important to be abreast of local changes. While it can be difficult to adjust salaries to different locations because of internal resistance and friction, being cognizant of when you’re paying below average can help you find other ways to attract staff. 

And of course, if you are looking to open a new location, consider how many other employers you will be competing with in that area. 

Want more information on your local area? Check out our salary stats. 


Most vacancies per 1000 people:

CityPopulationAverage VacanciesVacancies per 1000 people
Milton Keynes184,355700938.02
Bury St. Edmunds41,732147435.33

Fewest vacancies per 1000 people

CityPopulationAverage VacanciesVacancies per 1000 people
Canvey Island38,68919512.93

Biggest increase in vacancies 2018 to 2019

CityAverage Vacancies 2018Average Vacancies 2019% Change
Lancaster 52963620.30%

Biggest declines in vacancies 2018 to 2019

CityAverage Vacancies 2018Average Vacancies 2019% Change