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The jobs of London: exploring the More Detailed Jobs data

Walk down a London high street, you may be hard-pressed to find a bustling tobacconist, but you will see no shortage of pastry shops and bakeries serving paninis, cinnamon swirls or pain au chocolats. As the economy, technology and consumer tastes change, the variety of industries people work in also change, a development which we can explore using historical employment data.

GLA Economics’ More Detailed Jobs release provides a rich source of detailed information on the type of economic activities undertaken in London.[1] We first developed the series in 2014 to provide a consistent and detailed time series of jobs that could be part of the evidence base required to inform policies for London. The series draws on several sources of official data, most notably the ONS Business Register and Employment Survey (BRES).

In this blog, we show how the dataset can be used to understand the latest structure of London’s economy, and the ways that structure has changed over the last 25 years.

Visually explore the latest data

The detailed jobs data follows the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC 2007) framework, defined by the ONS. This divides firms up by their main activity in a number of broad sections, such as manufacturing or professional services, and then into three further levels of subdivisions.[2]

There are four commonly used levels in the SIC hierarchy named (from highest to lowest): sections, divisions, groups, and classes.

The variety of economic activities undertaken in London, and the distribution of the 5.3 million employee jobs in 2021, is shown in the interactive graphic below. Click down through sections to see how jobs are distributed among divisions, groups and classes.

Figure 1: Overview of London’s industries in 2021

Source: Number of employee jobs, BRES 1998-2021.
Notes: Totals across categories may not sum due to rounding.

For instance, within ‘arts, recreation and entertainment’ (139,700 jobs in 2021), 61,100 jobs were within ‘sports activities and amusement and recreation activities. Of those jobs, 47,400 were in ‘sports activities’, and of those, finally, 15,600 were in ‘activities of sport clubs’.

This hierarchy is illustrated in the interactive graphic below (roll over or click each element to see the totals).

Figure 2: The SIC hierarchy for sports activities in 2021

Source: Number of employee jobs, BRES 1998-2021.
Notes: Totals across categories may not sum due to rounding.

Analyse changes over time

The richness of the data also allows exploration of how narrowly defined industry sectors have changed over time, for instance due to changes in consumer preferences. Select any two industry classes in the interactive graphic below to compare how job numbers have changed since 1998.

We’ve highlighted the sub-components of jobs in specialised stores: the sale of tobacco in specialised stores (a class within the ‘Retail’ section) employed around 3,900 Londoners in 1998, somewhat less than bakeries and pastry shops (a separate class) which employed around 5,700. Employment in tobacco shops was already in decline (likely due to the general fall in the number of smokers over time) and had fallen to around 800 in 2021. Meanwhile, bakeries reached peak employment of 10,300 in 2019.

Figure 3: Long-term trends in jobs by class

Source: Number of employee jobs, BRES 1998-2021.
Notes: Use the search bar to select and view other industry classes.

Overall, the more detailed jobs series allows analysis of time trends, comparisons between industries, and the composition of sectors. We update the output annually and you can find it on the London’s sectors Datastore page.

For more data and analysis of London’s labour market, please visit the GLAE Labour market page.


[1] The dataset shows the number of jobs (both full and part time) in workplaces in London and one person may hold more than one job.
[2] Because some firms carry out many different activities in the same location, this means that some jobs will be classified as belonging to the ‘wrong’ SIC category.