Regional Economic Forecast predicts Reading as the UK’s fastest growing location

Neil Burton our consultant managing the role
As the UK overall inches toward steady economic growth over the coming three years, it is projected that London, and the southern regions of the country will lead the recovery. This anticipated gap is linked to the uneven distribution of high value industry sectors across the country, and labour market conditions across different regions. 

Regional growth areas

In 2023, the West Midlands showed the fastest pace of growth, with the North East also performing reasonably well. Both of these regions’ manufacturing sectors benefitted from continued improvements in supply chains and lower energy prices compared to the previous year. London was the next fastest (0.6%), followed by the North-East and the South East. Growth in London and the South East was driven by high performing services such as information, communications, administrative and support.

In contrast, regions such as Wales Northern Ireland Yorkshire, Humberside, and the South West, all struggling with cost of living rises, saw GVA decrease.

Rohan Malik, EY UK&I Managing Partner for Government & Infrastructure, comments:

While the UK’s prolonged period of economic stagnation should come to an end this year as all regions return to growth, the benefits will not be felt equally across all parts of the country.”

Nurturing high value sectors can boost resilience in tough times and accelerate growth in better years. High value sectors will require a high value workforce, so building in-demand skillsets and competencies with latest technology should help a region attract investment while bolstering the local economy.”

High-growth sectors are concentrated in a few areas and expected to prosper the most. Regions should create tailored growth plans that consider booming industries, cultivating them locally using high-value workforce and latest technology. For instance, Generative AI and Fintech could boost regional and national productivity, provided skills are adapted to match the technology.

On a national level, investment is linked to infrastructure development, as seen with the growth of tech hubs along the M4 corridor. Streamlining planning processes could speed up national infrastructure projects, ensuring investor confidence and attracting private sector capital to priority projects, hence initiating a new wave of investment, employment, and growth.

High growth sectors in the South

Professional services and technology are pitched to be the fastest growing sectors for GVA and employment between 2024 and 2027, however this growth will be concentrated in the South, for example these sectors will represent 14% of all employment opportunities across the UK, but 16% of employment opportunities in the South East and 23.1% in London. Businesses in these high growth sectors will need highly competent finance leaders to drive their profitability.

The growth projection of the manufacturing sector is less clearcut. While the manufacturing sector’s GVA is expected to grow by 1.3% due to decreased prices and increased demand, this will not result in more employment as the industry relies more and more on automated technology. The northern regions of the UK, which are more reliant on the manufacturing industry, will be impacted by the slower employment growth rate when compared to the overall UK average.

What does this mean for recruitment in the Thames Valley?

According to REED, 92% of job adverts have been for permanent employees. However, this does not mean that the temporary market is subdued, in fact, due to the fast-paced nature of interim recruitment, we find most roles are not advertised on job boards. If you are looking for a contract role, it is always worth directly reaching out to trusted recruitment partners as they will be engaged with the market and know where the best opportunities lie.

In terms of the finance sector, 67% of the roles advertised on REED were for roles requiring qualified accountants, with only 33% searching for transactional finance professionals. We anticipate that the number of organisations hiring transactional finance professionals will increase as we go into H2 2024 as a number of the businesses we are working with are looking to grow out their credit control and accounts receivable teams.

Returning to qualified finance, of the 67% of jobs requiring a qualified accountant, 52% of those roles were looking to hire a Finance Manager. This type of role has been the “missing market” for the first half of 2024, with these types of roles hard to come by up until recently. And whilst the overall appetite for finance talent has been steady, the manufacturing and education businesses are dominating, accounting for 40% of the finance roles advertised. Coming in at 18% was the SaaS industry and FMCG coming in fourth spot at 15% of advertised roles. 

How Marks Sattin can support growing businesses in high growth sectors

Marks Sattin is a heritage recruitment brand with over 30 years of experience supporting our clients with interim and permanent professionals, from transactional to director level. Our teams are known to be specialists in their markets, whether that is professional services or finance and accounting recruitment.

If you would like to hear more about employment market trends in the Thames Valley area, or are looking to expand your finance team, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with myself.

04/07/24
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