How does Norwich fare in city rankings?

Rob GarrattAs a report by a top research group predicts which cities are most likely to thrive as we leave the recession, what does it mean for Norwich?Rob Garratt

As a report by a top research group predicts which cities are most likely to thrive as we leave the recession, ROB GARRATT spells out what it means for Norwich.

Norwich has seen one of the lowest increases in people signing on throughout the recession - but has suffered a greater proportion of job losses than any other major city.

And people who have got a job are being paid more than 10pc less than elsewhere in the country.

These are just a few of the conflicting facts to emerge from a major new report examining which cities stand the best chance of flourishing in the post-recession climate.

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The Cities Outlook 2010 ranks 64 of the country's most important cities according to a range of vital indicators of economic health.

And Norwich comes up trumps with a better than average employment rate and a spiralling population size, both key signs of a vibrant economy.

Between April 2008 and March last year, nearly three-quarters of working-age Norwich residents had a job.

An extra 2,275 people signed on for Job Seekers' Allowance during the recession, between they key period February 2008 to November last year.

But this still represents a smaller proportional rise than the elsewhere in the UK. During the 18-month period the number of claimants rose by 1.4pc points to 3.5pc of the population, where the rest of the country saw a rise of 1.9pc points to 4.1pc.

As well as looking at how cities have faired in the downturn, the report also outlines how cities are set up for the future.

It spells out the importance of a city basing its economy around modern, skilled industries, as opposed to outdated and manual trades.

It notes: 'Economic trends, such as globalisation and technological change, mean that the UK will increasingly need to compete in higher-value, knowledge intensive markets…

'Some cities have more employment in these businesses than others, and therefore stand to play a bigger role in driving economic growth in the UK.'

The stats suggest Norwich is well placed for the future, scoring a ranking in the top 15pc of cities with a high-proportion of jobs in knowledge intensive industries, such as publishing, media, IT, finance and business sectors.

A total of 30,800 city people are employed in these 'safe' industries, 23.4pc of the workforce against a national average of 17.6pc.

These businesses benefit the city because they generate higher wages which feeds the city's economy.

Moving forward they also represent more secure employment, with higher-skilled jobs less likely to be undercut by developing nations.

A spokeswoman for Norwich City Council stressed the importance of handing on the benefits of these skilled trades to the rest of the city.

She said: 'Having higher value businesses can lead to all sorts of benefits which can help lock cities such as Norwich into a positive growth path.

'Financial inclusion is a key focus for the city council and we will continue to build on the successes we have achieved in this area. Our economic development activity has been focused on trying to ensure that communities within Norwich which have marked deprivation also benefit from the city's economic growth."

But despite the high employment rate in skilled industries, people in Norwich are paid an average of �62 a week less than the counterparts elsewhere Great Britain; a typical city weekly wage of �422 against a national average of �484.

Nigel Death, from Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, said this could be down to poor infrastructure and transport links, and renewed pleas for improvements.

He said: 'The cost of doing business here means it's harder for firms to operate on a competitive basis. Improvements are needed with broadband and road infrastructure to compete with the rest of the country, which we have been lobbying for.'

Paul Swinney, analyst for Centre for Cities who are behind the report, said the low wages could also be down to a lower cost of living, and a high level of employees in low paid jobs that are rated as knowledge intensive, such as call centres.

While few people are apparently signing on for benefits, in recent years more people per capita have lost their jobs than any of the other 63 cities looked at.

The report reveals the shocking statistic that between 2006 and 2008 a total of 8,900 people lost their jobs, a total of 6.3pc of the labour market.

Nationally the labour market grew by 1.2pc in the same time period - a difference of 7.5pc.

Figures show the bulk of these job losses were in finance, a total of 4,800, and some could be down to a reorganisation by the city's biggest employer, Aviva, which made 800 redundancies in 2007.

A further 2,000 city jobs were lost in manufacturing, while 1,500 were lost in property.

Mr Death argued the high redundancy rate could be down to a few key employers closing down or moving their business outside the city.

He said: 'We've got some huge employers within Norwich that have gone through some business restructures and changes, and unfortunately we've had some significant brands from a national perspective that are no longer in existence. Norwich has been hit harder than other cities.

'When you're going through pressures from a business perspective the first thing to do is make sure your business is aligned for the times ahead.'

He added: 'Norwich has a significant retail pressure with two shopping centres and this has been one of areas most hit.'

But analyst Mr Swinney said this early reorganisation of the labour market could have helped Norwich ride out the recession relatively unscathed.

He said: 'A significant rebalance took place before the recession, but Norwich faired better than most places during it; which may be why is hasn't been so bad.'

Despite shedding such a high proportion of jobs during those two years, throughout the last decade thousands of people have moved into the city, suggesting an appeal and economic prosperity.

Norwich is one of the fastest growing cities in the country - fifth of the 64 looked at in the study - with 21,900 more people between 1998 and 2008.

Centre for Cities spokeswoman Ros Taylor said: 'Norwich has seen a population growth which shows it's an attractive city with a growing technology field. There are traditional industrial cities with less jobs and people move away. People move to where the jobs are.'

However another bum note was sounded with news the city has a low rate of businesses churn - a measure of the dynamism of an economy based on the proportion of business births and deaths compared to the rest of the business stock.

Mr Swinney said Norwich's position in the bottom eight of the 64 cities was 'worrying.'

He added: 'You need new businesses to come in and try and put pressure on. If firms that aren't already there aren't efficient it's good for them to go bankrupt and get a more productive firm to put more into the economy.

'It means the economy is more dynamic and in a better position to respond to the downturn.'

Elsewhere the report found Norwich's skills base to be similar to the national average, with 28pc of adults' university graduates, and less than 10pc leaving schools without qualifications.

But Mr Death argued the future of the city relied on maintaining and promoting a strong skills base.

'We've got to make sure we've got a workforce that's up-skilled,' he said.

'The gap is in the younger generation coming through, we need to ensure they have the right skills for the workplace.

'The school leavers coming out are academically very good, but when it comes to business skills - that's where the gap is.'

Overall though the outlook for Norwich is good - a fast-growing city with few unemployed, and a large emphasis on finance, technology and IT that should secure the city's economic prosperity for some years to come.

Mr Swinney added: 'When looking at the very low JSA claimant count it suggests Norwich has not been hit very hard, which is a great thing for the city.

'The fact is Norwich is in a good position with a large proportion of knowledge intensive jobs. The building blocks suggest Norwich is in quite a good position going forward.'

Mr Death added: 'Norwich is proving to be a world class place to live.

'The figures are suggesting we're coming of out the recession. We've got an election coming up and businesses will be a key part of taking us out of the recession. There's still a lot of uncertainty but we're starting to see the green shoots of recovery.'

What the figures add up to

The Cities Outlook 2010 ranked 64 major cities in the country according to key economic criteria. Here is how Norwich performed.

Norwich has seen one of the lowest increases in JSA claimants throughout the recession. For the two years since February 2008 there has been year there was a rise of 1.4pc, where the national average rise was 1.9pc.

Rank: 6/64

The city experienced the worst rate of business growth between 2006 and 2008 of all 64 cities listed. There was a 6.3pc decrease in employment - a loss of 8,900 jobs - where the national average is an increase of 1.2pc.

Rank 64/64

A high proportion of employment is knowledge intensive businesses, which promote growth, with 23.4pc where the national average is 17.1pc

Rank 9/64

People in Norwich are paid less on average than elsewhere in the country, with a weekly pay packed of �422 a week, when the national average is �484.

Rank: 40/64

The city has one of the highest population growths, jumping by 21,900 between 1998 and 2008 - an increase of 0.9pc, nearly double the average of 0.5pc.

Rank: 5/64

More people in Norwich have a job than the norm, with 74.8pc of working age adults employed, compared to a national average in of 73.9pc.

Rank: 23/64

Less new businesses are being created in Norwich than elsewhere in the country - with a 0.5pc increase in businesses churn where the national average is 2.2pc.

Rank: 57/64

Workers in Norwich are also marginally under skilled, with 27.6pc of people reaching a NVQ4+ or equivalent level of qualification, where the national average is 29pc.

Rank: 26/64

However the percentage of people with no skills at all is above the average, at 9.3pc compared where the national average is 12.4pc.

Rank: 12/63