With around a quarter of UK workers said to be planning a job switch this year, Ciphr investigated which cities offer the most employment opportunities for job hunters and those considering a change of career.
↓ Scroll down to find out which cities rank the highest for job opportunities, salary growth, affordability, and more ↓
To discover which locations in the UK have the best job opportunities, Ciphr ranked 50 of the most populous cities in the country based on factors like average salary, salary growth, employment rate growth, unemployment rate, job listings, and the number of businesses.
House prices and rental costs were also included in the analysis to reflect the city’s affordability and cost of living, as were life satisfaction and happiness scores (from the Office for National Statistics) to show the population’s general level of wellbeing.
Colchester – Britain's oldest recorded town – tops the list for salary growth with a significant 12.9% increase in earnings for full-time workers over the last 12 months (2022 vs 2021). In comparison, Southend-on-Sea – one of the UK’s newest cities – reported negative -5.8% salary growth since 2021.
UK cities with the highest growth in earnings for full-time employees over the last 12 months:
UK cities with the lowest growth in earnings for full-time employees over the last 12 months:
UK cities with the highest earnings for full-time employees:
St Albans is among one of the least affordable cities to live in the UK but it does have the highest average salary for full-time employees of £46,551 (41% above the national average of £33,000). The next highest paying city is London, with an average salary of £39,391, followed by Cambridge and Milton Keynes.
The cities that rank highest for employment opportunities in Ciphr’s study have the best business density (the highest number of businesses with 10+ employees per 10,000 working age people), the largest employment rate growth, and the lowest unemployment rate – factors that are associated with favourable economic conditions and a buoyant labour market. They also have a higher number of job postings (on Indeed) per 10,000 working age population.
The best UK city for employment opportunities is Norwich, scoring an impressive 46 out of 50.
In Norwich, there are around 76.3 businesses (with 10+ employees) per 10,000 working population, its employment rate growth is 6.7% and the unemployment rate is 2.5%.
Bristol also scored well (44 out of 50) for employment opportunities, with the city recording a high density of businesses (70.2), a 2.9% unemployment rate, and an employment rate growth of 8.7%. As at January 2023, there are around 326 job vacancies listed in Bristol per 10,000 working population (the cities with the highest number of listings per person are Cambridge and Exeter with 396 and 373 respectively, while the UK average is 183).
Cities that scored the highest for employment opportunities:
Leeds was just outside the top ten, ranking at #12 for employment opportunities. Many of the UK's other biggest cities appear lower down the list, including Manchester, Glasgow, and London at #17, #18 and #20 respectively.
Cities with the highest density of businesses (with 10+ employees) per 10,000 working population:
The majority of UK cities with the most affordable housing (to rent or buy) are located in the north of England, with Doncaster topping the list. The average rental property costs around 22% of the average salary in Doncaster, which is £30,457. While the average property costs £175,872 – 5.8x the average salary.
At the other end of the scale, housing is the least affordable (comparative to average salaries) in London, Oxford, Brighton and Hove, Cambridge, Bristol, and Winchester.
UK cities that are the most affordable for buying or renting property:
UK cities that have the lowest rent-to-salary ratio:
UK cities with the lowest average property price (comparative to the average salary):
UK cities that have the highest rent-to-salary ratio:
UK cities with the highest average property price (comparative to the average salary):
According to the results of the ONS’ latest* annual personal wellbeing survey, the residents of Winchester, Lancaster and Oxford enjoy higher levels of life satisfaction and personal happiness than any cities in the study, with an average score of 15.5 out of 20.
The people of Canterbury and Lancaster feel the most satisfied about their lives overall (7.91 out of 10), while those living in Oxford are the happiest (7.71 out of 10).
UK cities with the highest life satisfaction scores:
'The happiest cities in the UK' – cities with the highest happiness scores:
The chart below illustrates how each city was scored (out of 50) for various criteria, including salary (average salary and salary growth), employment opportunities (number of businesses, employment rate growth, unemployment rate, and number of job listings), housing affordability (to rent and buy), and life satisfaction and personal happiness.
The higher a city appears in the ranking, then the higher the score (with 50 points being the highest) for each criteria. Weighting was then applied to the results to determine the city's overall position in the list of best UK cities for job opportunities.
Ciphr compared total population figures from the Office for National Statistics to determine which 50 UK cities were considered in the rankings, with only the most populous cities included in its analysis.
Multiple criteria were researched and analysed to discover which UK cities ranked best overall for job opportunities, including average salary, salary growth, the number of businesses, number of job postings on Indeed per 10,000 working age population (using Indeed's exact location search for each city), employment rate growth, unemployment rate, housing affordability, life satisfaction and personal happiness.
The following statistical weights were applied to the scores for each criteria:
Data sourced from the Office for National Statistics (ONS):
Other data sources:
Ciphr has also created an index revealing the best UK towns and cities for HR professionals to live and work in 2023.