Cultural changes have reshaped our industries in the ten years since the 2011 census, with the rise of digital jobs such as programming, shopping online and other social shifts.

We asked everyone who was working at the time of the 2021 Census about what type of job they did. Then we counted up how many people worked in each sector and compared it with ten years previously.

What emerged was a snapshot of how our work has changed, from local level employment up to national shifts in what we do.

The census of England and Wales was taken while restrictions were still in place to stop the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Industry change since 2011 will also have been affected by the pandemic. We will consider what further insight could be provided as part of our census analysis programme.

Our regular labour force statistics tell us about how the labour market has changed since March 2021 at a national and regional level, but the census gives a unique snapshot in time and at a local level. You can find out more about how these sources differ in our comparison article.

Programming and computer consultancy employment rose in all areas

Census 2021 data shows a large rise in programming and computer consultancy. An additional 274,000 people said they worked in this industry in 2021 compared with 2011.

While traditional industries such as manufacturing, print and reproduction, and publishing have seen a widespread decline, programming and computer consultancy has overtaken finance as an important area of employment in London.

Programming and computer consultancy overtook finance for census employment in London

Number of people living in London who were employed in finance and programming industries

Embed code

Download the data

Many local areas, such as Cambridge, also saw large increases in programming and computer consultancy employment. In Cambridge this rose by 90% in ten years to 5,600 people working in this industry.

When we count employment through census, we include everyone aged 16 years and over who said they were in paid work in the week up to census day, 21st March 2021. Around 3.8 million people were furloughed at this time. We asked people on furlough to tell us their work industry because they were still employed, but some people may have said they were out of work instead. Census employment is also based on where people live rather than where they work.

In Cambridge, of everyone working in that census week, nearly 1 in 12 (8%) were employed in the programming or computer consulting industry. Wokingham had the highest percentage of workers in this industry at around 1 in 9 (11%) of those in-work. The average across England was 3%.

Accounting and legal services are in a separate category to finance. London remains the top place for accounting and legal services, but if we look at how many people in every hundred work in this sector, we see a different picture. The proportion of residents employed in accounting and legal services fell in London but rose slightly in other areas of England. This is a better measure of change than numbers of people employed because we know there are more people in England and Wales overall than in 2011.

Accounting and legal services employment fell among London residents but rose elsewhere

Proportion of people working in accounting and legal services, in each region of England & Wales

Embed code

Download the data

Delivery and transport jobs increase in the Midlands

Transport and storage businesses have increased rapidly in the West and East Midlands, partly because of an increase in people shopping online. In the last decade, freight transport has increased in these areas, which are well connected by road, and a large number of new warehouses were built in 2021. During the pandemic, there were many more new transport and storage businesses registered, especially in the West Midlands.

Between 2011 and 2021, census data shows that the number of people who said they worked in transport and storage went up by around 17% in both the East Midlands and the West Midlands. The next highest increase was 6%, in Yorkshire and the Humber. Even after accounting for population growth, we see a particular increase in both the East Midlands and West Midlands for this sector.

Within the broader industry of transport and storage, warehousing had the biggest rise, with the number of people reporting that they worked in warehousing going up 39% in the East Midlands and 37% in the West Midlands. These areas also have the highest proportion of residents who work in postal services.

At a local level, some of the largest percentage increases in warehousing have been in Darlington and Burnley in the North East and North West respectively, as well as Derby in the East Midlands and Stafford in the West Midlands.

Warehousing employment has increased among East Midlands and West Midlands residents

Proportion of people working in warehousing, in each region of England & Wales

Embed code

Download the data

Spelthorne and Crawley, close to Heathrow and Gatwick airports respectively, still have some of the largest percentages of people working in warehousing, but numbers have fallen since 2011. Previous analysis based on business data also showed areas associated with ports and airports had seen much slower growth in the number of business premises used for transport and storage.

Vehicle manufacturing has also seen a large increase in the West Midlands in the ten years from 2011. Census data show that the number of those employed in vehicle manufacturing in the West Midlands increased 19% from 2011 to 2021 (from 46,000 to 55,000). This meant around 3 in 10 (29%) of vehicle manufacturing workers in England and Wales lived in this region in 2021.

Warwick and Stratford-on-Avon saw some of the biggest increases in vehicle manufacture workers, relative to their population.

Other local areas have large populations of vehicle manufacturing workers such as Sunderland and Swindon, but these didn’t see as big increases between 2011 and 2021. Some areas of south Wales saw the percentage of people in those areas who worked in vehicle manufacturing fall. In Bridgend and Rhondda Cynon Taf, the percentage of people employed in vehicle manufacture more than halved between 2011 and 2021.

Vehicle manufacturing has become a more significant industry in the West Midlands

Proportion of people working in vehicle manufacturing, of those living in selected local authorities

Embed code

Download the data

Scientific research employment increases near universities

Oxfordshire and Cambridgeshire were two of the areas that saw the largest increases in scientific research and development employment.

The districts of South Oxfordshire and the Vale of White Horse, Oxford were some of the places that saw a larger proportion of people working in this field. Some of this increase will be because of the pandemic. These districts have people living close to the new Harwell vaccination research centre. There will also be research work related to Oxford universities and companies.

Manufacture of pharmaceutical products also became a much more commonly reported industry this census, especially in Cambridgeshire.

Central London areas also saw a higher percentage of residents working in scientific research and development in 2021. These include the City of London, Camden, Hackney and Islington. Some of these areas include large health research facilities and are close to some London universities.

Scientific research and development rose in Cambridgeshire and Oxfordshire

Proportion of people employed in scientific research and development, of those in work

Embed code

Download the data

Arts and entertainment are still in the south but telecoms and broadcasting move north

Telecommunication has seen some shifts toward northern cities and away from areas in the South of England.

Between 2011 and 2021, the largest increases in the number of telecommunications workers, were in Yorkshire and the Humber (7% increase) and the North West (6% increase). The largest falls were in London (21% decrease) and East of England (15% decrease). Increases were also seen in northern cities such as Leeds, Sheffield and Manchester, where telecoms businesses such as BT and Plusnet have located some of their offices.

Telecoms employment has increased in Leeds, Sheffield and Manchester

Number of residents employed in the telecoms industry

Embed code

Download the data

Some of these areas have also seen an increase in broadcasting employment, notably Salford, Manchester and Leeds. This is likely to be a result of different broadcast producers opening new offices or moving services to these locations.

Film, TV and music production employed 116,000 people in the 2021 census, an increase of 13% compared to the 2011 census. Just under half of people working in this industry lived in London. However, the increase between censuses was not seen in London, the capital had fewer people working in this field relative to its working population. Rather, the South West, East of England and the South East saw the biggest gains.

Local areas with large rises in these production fields for film, TV and music include Waltham Forest and Lewisham in London, Dacorum in the East of England, and Runnymede in Surrey, which is near to Shepperton Studios, currently used by Netflix and Amazon.

Census 2021 showed that employment in the creative arts and entertainment industry remained mostly in London, followed by the South East. Increases were seen in all English regions and Wales.

Some local areas outside of London have seen large rises in creative arts and entertainment, relative to how many people live in those areas. These include Hastings, Thanet and Brighton and Hove, all of which are in the South East.

In Thanet, the number of people employed in the creative arts and entertainment tripled to around 920 people, or 1.6% of people of working age in Thanet. Brighton and Hove has the largest proportion of people who said they were employed in creative arts or entertainment type work of any area outside of London at nearly 3% of residents. For context, the top local area was Hackney at 4.4%.

Government and civil service grow fastest in Wales

Census 2021 data shows that around 1 in 11 of those in-work in Wales (125,000 workers) were employed in the government and civil service, higher than any region in England.

This was a 16% increase from 2011 (an additional 16,800 workers). Much of this increase is likely because of the expansion of the Welsh Government following further devolution of powers in 2014.

The areas of Wales with the largest increases in the number of public administration workers were Newport (39%), Rhondda Cynon Taf (29%), Gwynedd (24%), Ceredigion (22%), and Cardiff (19%).

Wales is also home to some civil service departments such as the head office of the Office for National Statistics in Newport, and the Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency in Swansea.

Government and civil service employment has gone up in Wales, unlike most English regions

Percentage of people working in public administration and defence, of those in work

Embed code

Download the data

Industry classification

The industry breakdown used for this article is based on the UK Standard Industrial Classification (SIC).

The shortened industry names used throughout the article correspond to the following full SIC names:

Source data

Dataset | Released 8 December 2022
Census 2021 estimates that classify usual residents aged 16 years and over in employment the week before the census in England and Wales by industry. The estimates are as at Census Day, 21 March 2021.

Industry 2011 Census
Dataset | Released 16 December 2022
2011 Census estimates that classify all usual residents aged 16 or over by industry (2 digits) based on 2021 specification. National to local authority based on 2021 geographical boundaries.