Image of Manchester skyline with offices providing jobs in Manchester

The Impact of COVID-19 on Jobs in Manchester: My Home City. A Career Coach’s Perspective

What should I do next with my career? This is a question I hear all the time as a career coach. Especially due to the volatility of the employment market since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. As an online career coach, I work with people across the UK and further afield. However the outlook for jobs in Manchester is crucial for my clients in Greater Manchester and the North West.

Manchester holds a special place in my heart, both as my home for the last 12 years and due to some pivotal moments in my own career. I first came to live in Manchester as a 19 year old when I began my first degree and subsequently completed my studies in Management Science at the University of Manchester. I also have fond memories of one of my university-era jobs in Manchester, when I exercised my number one hobby by managing the music department at WH Smith in the Arndale Centre. Happy times!

However, what interests me most right now is how the employment market in Manchester will respond to and survive through COVID-19. Manchester has been a high growth city and a great place to develop your career for many years. So where we are now in terms of careers and jobs in the North West’s number 1 city? What does the future could look like as Manchester, and Greater Manchester more widely copes with the dramatic and unpredictable economic circumstances we are dealing with. How will the clients who come to me for career coaching in Manchester find things in the coming months and years?

What is the Likely Impact of Coronavirus on Careers and Jobs in Manchester?

According to the respected think-tank Social Market Foundation (SMF) in a July 2020 report, Manchester is one of 11 local authority areas that will experience both the most significant economic hits from coronavirus and the slowest recoveries, over the period 2020-2023. The report includes a prediction of the impact on broad industry areas of coronavirus on UK jobs. This suggests the worst hit sectors will finance and insurance, and construction. Both of these are significant employment sectors affecting many careers in Manchester. 69% of jobs in Manchester are in moderate or severely impacted areas, according to SMF.

This is a prediction for what might happen next, but what was the employment sector in Manchester like before COVID-19 hit?

Jobs in Manchester: City Centre Office Jobs and Apartments

Manchester has one of the most dynamic employment markets in the UK. It has continued to grow and diversify in the first two decades of this millennium. The city centre is almost unrecognisable now from when I first moved to Manchester just over 20 years ago. The growth in the office market has been phenomenal. Across all sectors of the market, from plush, modern grade A accommodation to smaller, quirkier conversions aimed at start-ups and entrepreneurs. Perhaps the most significant development was the creation of Spinningfields off Deansgate, next to the old Granada studios. Once described as the ‘Canary Wharf of the north’ it accommodates a number of large international banks, plus media, property and other large companies. This is in addition to new law courts, upmarket shops and restaurants and river view apartments.Manchester city centre was a place few people wanted to live in at the start of the 1990s. Now, modern apartment blocks and conversions of buildings from the city’s industrial heritage are evident across all central areas. Over 65,000 people now live in Manchester city centre. In Deansgate and Piccadilly, the two most central wards, the population has increased by 185% from just 10,315 in 2004. 550,000 people now live across Manchester as a whole, compared to 432k in 1991. This demonstrates the growth on popularity of Manchester as a place to work and live.

Image of Manchester city centre apartments and offices

Other Growth Employment Sectors

Added to the massive growth in office and residential accommodation, there has been significant growth and refinement of shops and restaurants. The streets are lined with high end retailers, plus the presence of all major restaurant chains and quirky independents. Hotels and other tourism businesses have boomed, centred around conferences and events. Added to this are heritage attractions celebrating the city’s rich history. The University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University, plus nearby University of Salford have all grown their student populations. in 2018, Manchester was the 3rd ranked student city in the UK.

In addition, the creation of Media City in neighbouring Salford and Trafford have made Greater Manchester the largest media hub in the UK outside London. This major new employment area provides major national bases for the BBC and ITV, plus numerous smaller businesses.

The urban development of the centre illustrates how volume and breadth of jobs in Manchester and Greater Manchester have boomed.

What do the Statistics Say About Jobs in Manchester?

What you can see for yourself in Manchester city centre is borne out in official figures from the Office for National Statistics.

In 2019, people in Manchester employed in the top three SOC occupation groups comprised 49.5% of all people in the city in employment. This compares to 43.9% in the North West and 47.5% across Great Britain. These categories cover highly paid careers including managers, directors, senior officials, professional occupations, associate and technical professions. Most notable is the density of people working in ‘professional occupations’ at 28.5%. This is significantly higher than 21.4% across Britain as a whole. These careers include well paid roles in science, IT, health, teaching and education, legal, finance, property and media. This trend has been driven by the relocation to and expansion of businesses in these sectors in Manchester.

Manchester, according to ONS, has more jobs than national average in accommodation and food, IT, finance and insurance, real estate, professional activities, admin and support services, education and logistics. There is also a higher than average number of small and medium sized businesses located in Manchester.

Image of man working at a laptop in an office

Salaries and Education in Manchester

Salaries in Manchester compare favourably to the UK. Average full time weekly gross pay in Manchester is £600, compared to £586 across Britain.

In terms of education, the population of Manchester is more highly qualified than average with 43.7% educated to HND or degree level. This compares to 40.3% across Great Britain.

These figures paint a rosy picture for living and working in Manchester. However, it’s also notable that the city has above national average representation in the lowest paid occupation categories too. This demonstrates the polarity of the Manchester’s jobs market. Economic inactivity is significantly lower and unemployment higher than the figures for Britain and the North West. Also, Manchester is the 5th most deprived local authority area in England. This is based on the highest percentages of of top 10% most deprived neighbourhoods within a local authority’s boundaries. While Manchester city centre and other neighbourhoods, especially in South Manchester are very prosperous, there are significant inequalities elsewhere.

What does this mean for Careers and Jobs in Manchester moving forwards?

Career management in Manchester will be challenging. This is based on the city’s pre-COVID employment market and SMF’s predictions.

The two most severely affected industries, according to SMF, banking finance and insurance and construction are both significant contributors to jobs in Manchester. This can be seen by the high representation of banks and property businesses in the city centre. Plus the vast amount of construction constantly reshaping Manchester’s skyline.

Manchester also has a higher than national average proportion of jobs in three of the four broad industry areas SMF predict to be moderately impacted by Coronavirus. These are defined as distribution, hotels and restaurants; transport and communication; and other services, which includes retail.

Clearly, this is likely to mean significant job losses are likely in these areas. Many businesses are already downscaling, while others will be forced too close. For example, Manchester has a thriving live music and visual arts sector. Many workers who were freelance or on fixed term contracts have seen their jobs go. There has also been a raft of casual dining restaurants closing across the city, such as Frankie and Benny’s and Bella Italia.

Sadly we will see more companies across a range of sectors go out of business. Especially affected will be retailers and hospitality businesses, many of which were already struggling before coronavirus happened. The process of society and lifestyles changing has speeded up changes in consumer behaviour. For every company that goes out of the business, their supply chain and services like banking, accountancy and insurance will be affected.

Changing Habits

People will be more cautious about how they spend money for quite some time and many will find themselves relying on reduced incomes. This will be compounded by the conclusion of the Brexit transition period at the end of 2020. Policy and interventions from the UK Government will be crucial to safeguard and bolster the economy, including job markets.

A number of interventions were announced on 8th July in Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s summer mini-budget, including the Job Retention Bonus, Kickstart Jobs Scheme and Green Homes Grant. Reaction to these schemes has been mixed and it will be some time before we see how effective they are. However, they could contribute to stability for some existing jobs and the creation of new ones.

Image of man working from home

Changes to Jobs and Working Practices

For office workers, it may be some time before people return to their normal workplace. Many organisations will choose to keep their staff working at home, due to the challenges of effective social distancing in offices. It is likely to be at least October before people return in volume to working in offices. This situation will very much be up in the air and be dependent on how well Manchester and the UK keep infection rates relatively low.

Also, throw into the mix that organisations that never previously permitted homeworking have have now seen for themselves how well it can work. This means demands for greater flexibility of working will be increasingly demand driven, both by employers and employees. This will impact on the nature of how future job roles are designed.

Recruitment has picked up in the weeks following the easing of lockdown. However, many businesses will remain cautious and wait to learn more about how the economy adapts. The summer is also traditionally a quieter time for hiring. This means it may not be until the autumn before recruitment activity picks up significantly.

What can you do to navigate this career challenge?

Job markets in many sectors not only in Manchester and across the UK are already difficult. Unfortunately, in the short term at least, things will continue to get tougher. If you are affected, this will require being smarter and more flexible in terms of what you do in finding your next job.

With greater competition for jobs, getting the basics right is crucial. This includes your formulating a strong strategy for your job search. Fundamentals include nailing your LinkedIn profile and using it to pro-actively find opportunities. Also, analysing your network and utilising your existing contacts. In addition, being plugged in to where jobs in your industry are advertised and making sure your touch points with recruiters, including CVs, applications and interview skills are up to scratch.

Looking for jobs in a different industry is also something to consider. Especially for people working in a severely affected sector.

If you have felt stuck in a job you hate, this is a great opportunity to transfer your skills to do something new. For example, over the past two months I have been working with a client who was made redundant from a career in retail which had led him to the brink of burnout. He spent time working with me to uncover careers that would be a better fit for him. The outcome is that he has re-positioned himself to work in the third sector, with a focus on health.

Get Help from a Career Coach

If all this sounds daunting, working with a career coach can help you work out what to do next. It will give your search greater momentum, build your confidence and skills and enable you to formulate a coherent strategy. From personal experience, working with a career coach a few years ago led me to the work that I do now!

Bottom line – we are all facing a lot of uncertainty due to the impacts of coronavirus, not to mention Brexit. The important thing though is not to panic. Stay in control by being pro-active in the way you manage your career. Be the person who flourishes in times of challenge.

If you find that you want further advice to develop or re-shape your career, then consider working with a life coach with expertise in career coaching.

Chris Cooper is a life coach and career coach in Manchester, England. He works with clients from across the UK and internationally online using video call or by telephone.

Image of executive coach and career coach Chris Cooper working in a Manchester city centre cafe
Chris Cooper taking some time out to work in a Manchester city centre cafe

Do you want to make changes to your career? Speak to Chris more about how career coaching can help you.

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