Reading economy: among least impacted by COVID and best placed to recover

A new report by PWC/Demos, Good Growth for Cities 2020 (published 20 January 2020), highlights the factors that have provided some degree of resilience in Reading to the worst economic impacts of the global pandemic and assesses Reading as well placed to recover more quickly than many other UK cities.

GoodGrowthreport2020The report ranks Reading second only to Oxford among UK cities in economic readiness to withstand the major economic shock generated by the pandemic. The report’s analysis shows that Reading, along with the economies of other cities that performed well in Good Growth terms in the two years before COVID (2017-19), has been relatively less impacted by the pandemic. The mix of sectors and the performance on broader economic and social indicators in these cities has to some extent provided some resilience says the report.

The Good Growth Index measures the performance of cities against 10 indicators ranked by the public in the given year. It reflects the growing recognition that traditional, narrow measures of economic success are no longer fit for purpose, such as focusing solely on Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or Gross Value Added (GVA). In the 2020 Index, health, employment and skills were ranked by the public as the three top indicators from the 10¹ included in the report.

While Reading ranked 10th for the economy least impacted by COVID in the UK, its overall ranking of 2nd in the Index demonstrates its success in recent years in creating jobs, high incomes, good quality of life/health, high levels of skills in the workforce and strong levels of business creation.

The Good Growth report makes the assessment that the biggest hurdles to economic recovery are in areas with young populations, more ethnic diversity and low-income groups.  It identifies an important role for local leaders in developing interventions that will help match these people to skills training and job opportunities.

The report cites “a palpable sense of the need to build a better, fairer future. What has become clearer than ever is that, beyond the immediate COVID-19 crisis response, a broader approach to economic wellbeing is needed. One that embraces social, health and economic outcomes more fully.”

Nigel Horton-Baker, Executive Director, Reading UK, said: “In Reading, as everywhere, COVID is taking its toll on people's lives and the resulting economic restrictions affects the ability of businesses to operate normally. However, there are good reasons for optimism about the future.  The Good Growth report identifies the strength and diversity of the Reading economy which has allowed it to bounce back from previous crises quickly and which will help it get back on track again quickly post-COVID.

“Reading’s success is based on a broad range of factors. The Powered by People Reading Economic Recovery Strategy, launched by Reading UK before Christmas, places skills, sustainability, inclusivity and placemaking among the key actions needed to support our recovery. It is heartening to see that the Good Growth report concurs with that wider assessment of success.

“The Index also reports that capital investment remains plentiful but paused, unlike in the last global financial crisis. In Reading, we have seen new investment and new businesses moving in during the pandemic in a huge vote of confidence for the quality of our economy, the skills of our workforce and our future economic well-being.”

The full report can be read here>>>

¹The Good Growth Index 10 indicators:-

  • Jobs - Unemployment rate 2017-2019
  • Health - % of economically inactive long-term sick 2017-2019
  • Income - GDHI per head 2016-2018
  • Education and skills - Share of population, aged 18-24 & 25-64, with NVQ 3+ 2017-2019
  • Housing - Housing price to earnings ratio and owner occupation rate 2017-2019
  • Work-life balance - % in employment working more than 45 hrs per week 2017-2019
  • Income distribution - Ratio of median to mean income 2017-2019
  • Transport - Average commuting time to work 2017-2019
  • Environment - Carbon emissions: gCO2/£ earnings 2016-2018
  • New businesses - New businesses per head of population 2017-2019

The report defines Reading as its Travel to Work Area (TTWA).


Reading employment stats:-

  • Less than 10% of eligible workers have been furloughed in Reading during the pandemic.
  • The Universal Credit claim rate in the Greater Reading area (Nov 2020) was 4.4%. 
  • Vacancy rates are buoyant and Reading is strong in the employment growth areas of health, logistics and digital.



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