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Jobs growth in Cambridge region continues with more sectors recovering





Jobs growth in the Greater Cambridge region continues to outstrip the national average, with knowledge-intensive sectors performing particularly strongly.

The latest annual monitor of the region’s economy, from business and academic member organisation Cambridge Ahead, lends more weight to calls for infrastructure investment to ensure the growth is sustainable and the benefits spread.

Dan Thorp, CEO of Cambridge Ahead
Dan Thorp, CEO of Cambridge Ahead

The research, conducted by the Centre for Business Research (CBR) at the University of Cambridge, shows that in a 20-mile radius from the centre of the city, employment in knowledge intensive sectors grew 5.7 per cent in the year from 2021-22 to 2022-23, led by 11.1 per cent growth in life sciences.

While this is a familiar picture for the region, there was also a 4.6 per cent growth In transport and travel employment - a notable reversal of fortunes for a sector that struggled amid the pandemic and recorded a decline of 3.9 in last year’s report.

Education, hospitality and retail sectors similarly showed encouraging employment growth after years blighted by the pandemic.

Turnover was also captured by the research, and high-tech manufacturing proved to be the standout performer in the Cambridge city region, with growth of more than 18.7 per cent.

Across the wide Cambridgeshire and Peterborough region, overall employment growth was also strong at 4.4 per cent and there was some encouraging jobs growth performances within certain sectors of each district including:

5.7 per cent growth in high-tech manufacturing in Huntingdonshire, and 4.6 per cent growth in the same sector in Peterborough;

9.7 per cent growth in transport and travel in Fenland; and

3.8 per cent growth in distribution and retail in East Cambridgeshire.

Cambridge Biomedical Campus
Cambridge Biomedical Campus

Dan Thorp, chief executive of Cambridge Ahead, said: “This is gold-standard data showing what is really happening in the Cambridge economy, and across the wider Cambridgeshire and Peterborough area. It shows that the national attention on Cambridge is more than warranted, and our opportunity now is to showcase how national and local leaders can come together to unlock a city region’s full potential.”

One cautionary note sounded by the researchers is that the data covers the year to April 2023, meaning the latter half of 2023, when the UK was in a technical recession, is excluded.

But the broad picture for the Cambridge city region over recent years is consistently stronger than the national one.

Employment here has grown by an average of 3.5 per cent per year over the last six years, while over the last 10 years, employed in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough has grown 1.8 per cent per year, compared to a figure of 1.4 per cent across Great Britain.

Greater Cambridge has performed particularly well, with 2.2 per cent jobs growth on average each year over the last 10 years - a fact that has not gone unnoticed by the government, which is pushing for 150,000-plus homes and new lab space to be built in the region by 2050 in its recent ‘Case for Cambridge’ report, designed to maximise the region’s status as a the UK’s science capital.

That aspiration, however, has raised major concerns about sustainability and the environment, not least the pressure on stretched water supplies in what is typically one of the driest areas of the country.

Cllr Elisa Meschini, the Labour chair of the Greater Cambridge Partnership, added: “It is fascinating as always to see and read the data of how our local economy is evolving and developing to meet the challenges of the 21st century. In our case, we can see the continued growth of life sciences building on the world leading knowledge and expertise we have in our area, even more positively we can also see an upturn in transport, education and retail.

“This reflects what we hear on the ground, that our economy is strong, diverse and thriving – the task for bodies like the Greater Cambridge Partnership is to provide the infrastructure and support to ensure we all benefit and that we make this area a better place to live.”

Dan Thorp, CEO of Cambridge Ahead
Dan Thorp, CEO of Cambridge Ahead

Nick Finlayson-Brown, partner and head of Mills & Reeve’s Cambridge office, which co-sponsored the report, said: “The detailed, insightful and thought-provoking analysis produced in the report is crucial to understanding and promoting the ongoing economic and social evolution of Cambridge, the wider region’s markets and the sectors that make them famous. The report provides invaluable empirical evidence to showcase the ongoing strength of the economy but also, and crucially, its future potential to the business community working in and attracted to investing in the city, its clusters and wider region as well as to local and central government.”

Kirsty Gill, chief people officer of Arm
Kirsty Gill, chief people officer of Arm

Kirsty Gill, chief people officer of Arm, said: “As the location of our global headquarters and a major talent hub for Arm, it is encouraging to see this latest research into the sustained growth in Cambridge and the surrounding area. Maintaining and improving the quality of life for our people and the broader Cambridge community remains a major focus for us, and data such as this annual report from Cambridge Ahead is critical to monitoring and understanding the challenges and opportunities that face this dynamic, growing city.”



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