The financial impact of COVID-19 on the economy of Leeds is yet to be calculated but it is fair to say the number is in the billions.
With many cities in the north experiencing a resurgence of COVID-19 infections due to the Delta variant and lifted restrictions, it is easy to be pessimistic about the economic recovery of Leeds. Where will recovery come from? What will it look like?
Why Leeds is on the road to recovery
Leeds is on the road to recovery. We know because the data says so.
According to Geolytix’s retail recovery index, in May 2021 the Leeds economy was back to 97 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.
This is West Yorkshire’s biggest increase in economic activity in 2021. It is also significantly higher than the national average of 73 per cent.
Retail is the beating heart of Leeds. It accounts for 12% of its economic output. When retail is doing good, other sectors do good too.
The Overall index (which you can see for Leeds and every other city here) has exceeded the 100-pre-pandemic baseline level for several weeks. This is the result of strong growth in the Hotel & Leisure, Mobility and Retail Sector Indices.
Staying optimistic about future recovery
The Leeds economy is performing brilliantly following the easing of restrictions in May. We expect this to continue as further restrictions are eased.
Another important step in the right direction is the Leeds Economic Recovery Framework, launched by Leeds City Council in October 2020.
The Leeds Economic Recovery Framework sets out a continued approach to aid recovery from the coronavirus crisis. This isn’t a plan but a framework that can be adapted to address changing circumstances and pressures.
The recovery approach is centred on the need to:
- Respond. To support businesses and workers when they need it.
- Reset and renew. To continue to understand the unique challenges and opportunities that we face in recovery.
- Build resilience. To develop a strong frontier and maintain long-term goals so that aspirations for growth can be achieved.
Reasons to be excited for Leeds
- Data shows the Leeds economy is back to 97 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, higher than the national average of 73 per cent
- Data shows the Leeds economy is still growing, and that it could exceed pre-pandemic levels in 2021 with further restriction easings
- The Hotel & Leisure, Mobility and Retail Sector Indices are all up
- The UK vaccination programme is one of the best in the world. Booster jabs in the winter will help us control the spread of the virus.
Of course, a few challenges lie ahead.
Future restrictions that throw cold water on the economy are a possibility, but so long as everyone over 20 is double vaccinated before winter and those who need it have a booster jab, taking control of the virus is a realistic goal.
We can probably all agree that it is utterly depressing and frankly nauseating to believe that this virus will lock us away forever.
For Leeds, bumps in the road lie ahead but we see a clear path forward for strong future growth. The current 2021 data shows light at the end of the tunnel. It shows economic resilience. It tells us that the economy being beaten up won’t affect the upward long-term trajectory. This should put wind in all our sails.