Latest Greater Cambridge employment data showcases impressive economic strength and stability

Published 20 November 2023

Share this page Bookmark this page

Analysis of the latest corporate job creation figures

from the Greater Cambridge Partnership and Cambridge Ahead, reveals resilience and increasing confidence throughout the city region.

Produced by the Centre for Business Research (CBR) at the University of Cambridge and sponsored by the Greater Cambridge Partnership and Cambridge Ahead, the update highlights Greater Cambridge's corporate economic strength and adaptability, with a remarkable trajectory of growth and continued post-pandemic recovery in various key sectors, despite concerns nationally about a potential UK recession.

The analysis found that corporate employment growth in the Greater Cambridge area rose from 6.0% in 2021-22 to 8.5% in 2022-23. The strong growth of the local corporate economy is particularly notable when considered against the national picture – a turbulent period characterised by low GDP growth and increasing rates of inflation and unemployment.

In particular, innovation-led job creation in the KI sectors caused employment to grow by 11.2% in 2022-23 (7.8% in 2021-22) which is fuelling a buoyant corporate local economy.

‘Life sciences and healthcare’, the largest KI sector in Greater Cambridge, was the fastest growing sector during 2022-23 (12.8% compared with 12.6% during 2021-22), closely followed by the tech sector - ‘IT and telecoms’ - which saw strong employment growth of 10.3%, up from 6.5% in the previous year.

The data also revealed that the ‘High-tech manufacturing’ sector was the KI sector that achieved the largest increase in employment growth over the past two years, up from 1.3% to 8.9%.

Non-KI sectors, such as retail, transport and construction, also contributed to the overall employment growth, with a higher growth rate of 4.5% in 2022-23, compared to 3.4% in 2021-22, indicating sustained recovery in sectors that had been significantly impacted in recent years by pandemic-related lockdowns and restrictions.

Drilling down further, the comprehensive breakdown of this latest data revealed that South Cambridgeshire witnessed a remarkable 9.1% increase in overall employment across all sectors in 2022-23, up significantly from 4.0% in the previous year. Employment growth in Cambridge was also strong at 7.6%, though slightly lower than the 9.2% growth observed in the previous year.

Dan Thorp, CEO, Cambridge Ahead said:

“These figures tell a story of a strong economy that brings more and more high quality jobs to the city region every year and, given the sectors this growth is coming from, is a jewel in the crown of the overall UK economy.

"Since the pandemic, it has been the KI sectors keeping our economy in overall positive employment growth, whilst non KI was impacted more deeply. Now we see evidence of an important shift, almost all sectors are seeing positive growth and there is stronger whole-economy momentum building.

“General forecasting for the UK can fail to fully account for areas which are performing unusually strongly, like Greater Cambridge. This leads to inadequate outcomes on issues such as transport, housing, utilities, education and skills where the baseline data is not reflective of the growth on the ground. This new localised employment growth data should now be put to use as a primary factor in the assessment of Greater Cambridge’s infrastructure needs in order to support our inclusive, sustainable growth ambitions and the quality of life needs of the workforce”

Cllr Elisa Meschini, Chair of the Greater Cambridge Partnership Executive Board, said:

“The continued growth of the Greater Cambridge job market is a reflection of how strong we are as a place – leading the resurgence of the UK economy. This research shows that it is not just in our traditional areas of strength like life sciences and high-tech that employment is growing but also in the supporting sectors such as retail and construction. This is providing the balance of skills, experience and opportunities for people who live here now or who wish to relocate.

“As we digest these figures it is key to understand why all sectors are firing up – we believe it is because Cambridge is becoming the national and international centre we hoped it would become but we need to investigate further. The big challenge is clear – how do we sustain this growth and ensure that people have the homes, necessary transport and education opportunities to seize the roles which are being created. This is something we all must work together on.”

Cambridge Ahead is calling for recognition of the fact that if critical infrastructure – like transport – is not delivered, it will seriously negatively impact the quality of life of existing and new communities alike. Congestion across transport modes, housing unaffordability, and usage of resources like water and energy would be driven up unsustainably, to the detriment of residents, by not delivering new infrastructure at the same time as more and more jobs are being created here.

The current dataset, showing all Cambridge-based companies, can be viewed via the Cambridge Cluster Insights tab at Cambridge Cluster Insights is an interactive resource, which allows businesses and individuals to examine individual company data as well as identify where growth is taking place around them.

The database methodology detailing the types of companies included, period covered, data collected and sector classifications is available on Cambridge Ahead's website here.