The 2008 financial crash, and the recession that followed, was a dark time for the British economy - people lost their homes, millions of jobs were lost, and the age of austerity was ushered in under former Prime Minister David Cameron and former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne by a ballooning deficit and spiralling debt. 10 years in on since the crisis that redefined the world economy and brought an end to an unprecedented decade of continuous prosperity and growth, it appears the world, and the UK in particular, are out of the woods.
As one of the fast growing G7 nations, the UK has done a good job of rebuilding after the crash, to deliver numerous years of continued and consistent growth. The vote to leave the European Union looks set to hamper that a bit, but, regardless of this and an austerity agenda that may have hurt the economy, Britain’s economy has been strong for a number of years. And that has included an historic growth in employment, and a significant drop in joblessness.
This lower unemployment has been touted as one of the greatest achievements of the post crash British economy, and has helped millions get back on track in life. Much of this job growth has seen some of the UK’s biggest industries grow further, to employ even more people, far outstripping many small sectors. So which sectors have grown enough since the crash to recover from any redundancies and job losses to be the biggest industries in the UK?
Well, at the top of the list, with a whopping 4.6 million employees is the wholesale trade, retail and repair industry. The industry that was arguably worst hit by the crash, except for the banks, due to collapsing profits as a result of the credit crunch and a lack of disposable income, but between 2007 - a year before the crash - and 2017, the number of people employed retail industry grew by 21%. Whilst not a whopping number, it is a very healthy growth, and a good sign that our high streets are back on track.
Not far behind, however, and perhaps unsurprisingly, is the health and social care sector which employs 4.4 million in the UK as of 2017, up a massive 74% since before the financial crash. This might be expected due to the ever-rising demand for health services and the increasing need for NHS services, though it also comes on the backdrop of stretched services and overworked staff leaving the health service.
Significantly smaller than these two industries, but significantly bigger than the smaller sectors, is the education industry, which despite shrinking over the course of 2017, remains a steady third, at 3.2 million - as opposed 3.3 million at the start of the year. This can be chalked up to cuts to school budgets which have led to teachers leaving the sector due to stress or redundancy - which has led to bloating class sizes.So, the three industries with the most workers in the UK in 2017/18, are the retail, wholesale and repair industry, the health and social care industry, and the education industry. But what is clear from the data considered is that whilst the surface data might be strong, there are still underlying issues. Retail job growth has been modest, and many large companies, such as BHS, are still going bust, amid struggling profits and unethical practices, almost a decade after the crash, in large part due to falling living standards and sluggish wage growth. Whilst the health and social care industry has had to keep employing to keep up with rapidly growing demand, and yet it still isn’t enough for some staff to cope. And, whilst those industries are struggling, yet increasing their number of employees, the education sector seems in the most trouble, with more teachers needed, and less available. It’s clear that whilst the economy might be more stable, there is still work to do.