Leeds economy

Leeds is the UK’s fastest growing city and is the main driver of a city region with a £64.6 billion economy, a combined population of 3 million and a workforce of 1.37 million.

Over the next ten years, the economy is forecast to grow by 21% with financial and business services set to generate over half of GVA growth over that period.

Employment and key sectors

Financial and business services account for 38% of total output. Other key sectors include retail, leisure and the visitor economy, construction, manufacturing and the creative and digital industries.

Leeds has one of the most diverse economy of the all the UK’s main employment centres. In 2016, Leeds saw the fastest rate of private sector jobs growth of any UK city and has the highest ratio of public to private sector jobs of all the UK’s Core Cities. The city has the third largest jobs total by local authority area with 480,000 in employment and self-employment at the beginning of 2015.

Business in Leeds

Over 32,000 VAT-registered businesses are based in Leeds and more than 6,000 small and medium-size enterprises, which account for more than half of employment. The number of mid-size and large companies and organisations based in Leeds is significantly above the national average.

According to new data on business 'scale-ups' – companies which have achieved three years of 20% growth in revenues or employees –Leeds is one of the UK’s foremost centres for fast growing firms, behind only London and Cambridge.

Companies with more than 1,000 employees based in Leeds include Asda Group, First Direct, Centrica, Ventura, BT, Direct Line Group and Yorkshire Bank. The city is home to three internationally recognised universities, one of the largest further education colleges in the UK and Europe’s largest teaching hospital trust.

Investment and development

More than £3.9 billion has been invested in large scale development projects over the last decade and there is a further £7.3 billion worth of development under construction and in the pipeline.

Like other large cities in the UK, Leeds city centre has assumed an increasingly important economic role in recent years. It is effectively becoming the city centre for the Leeds City Region as a whole, with a growing concentration of private sector and high skilled, knowledge intensive jobs.

Located at the intersection of the national motorway network, Leeds is just over 2 hours by rail from London Kings Cross. Leeds Bradford Airport is the UK’s fastest growing regional airport.

Fibre broadband rollout

Leeds is benefitting from investment in broadband infrastructure. Almost all premises are able to access superfast broadband (30mbps and above) and there are a number of large commercial investments in full fibre rolling out across Leeds.

We are improving access to fibre broadband throughout Leeds by working with BT. Through the Leeds Full Fibre Programme, BT and their partner Openreach are installing a full fibre network to public sector buildings across the city. Work is expected to be complete by 2022.

Improving connectivity has many benefits to the city, including our health services.


Full fibre networks also underpin the rollout of 5G services. Mobile network operators are investing in 5G networks across the UK, including in Leeds. Installation of 5G infrastructure in Leeds goes through the planning process. The responsibility for licensing 5G operators is OFCOM.

Similar to fears around mobile internet and wi-fi, 5G is subject to concerns about health. In 2019 this issue was discussed at a council meeting. We decided no further action was required, but continue to monitor Public Health England's guidance on the effects of 5G on health external link.

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