Wolverhampton:Economy and Enterprise

Economy and Enterprise – A Summary

Situated to the west of Birmingham, Wolverhampton is one of the 4 local authorities in the Black Country sub-region. Wolverhampton has a documented history dating back to 985AD. In 2000, Wolverhampton was granted city status. The first Census in 1801 shows Wolverhampton’s population as 12,500, in 1901 94,187 and by 1951 the population stood at 162,672. Wolverhampton is now one of the most densely populated local authority areas in England, with a population of 249,470 people (Census 2020) living in its 26.8 square miles, equating to a population density of 3,447 per square kilometre.
The Sub-National Population projections show that Wolverhampton’s population is changing. According to the sub national population projections, this growth is set to continue. The projections estimate Wolverhampton’s population in 2021 as 260,200 with growth being most rapid in the child and older populations.
The latest Indices of Deprivation (2020) indicates that Wolverhampton is more deprived than it was three years ago. This represents a relative decline, from the 28th most deprived to the 20th most deprived local authority (out of 326 local authorities) and moves Wolverhampton from being in the 8% most deprived authorities to the 6% most deprived. The latest IMD report shows that levels of deprivation in the city continue to rise. Since 2004 Wolverhampton’s overall IMD rank has dropped from 35th to 20th most deprived in England. This change takes Wolverhampton from being in the 10% most deprived areas in England in 2004 to the 6% most deprived in 2020. In 2020, 2 of Wolverhampton’s 158 lower super output areas (LSOAs) fell into the top 1% most deprived in England in 2020, and these were in The Scotlands and Low Hill. The Scotlands LSOA has seen a significant rise in relative deprivation (decreased 160 places nationally from 264 to 104) and overtaken the LSOA in Low Hill (which saw a relative improvement in deprivation from its national ranking of 60 to 187) as Wolverhampton’s most deprived LSOA. The number of Wolverhampton LSOAs that fall into the bottom 10% most deprived nationally has increased since 2007 from 15 to 22. The number of Wolverhampton’s LSOAs in the 20% most deprived nationally has risen from 77 to 82 with 52% of Wolverhampton’s LSOAs now in the 20% most deprived in England, a rise of 3% from 2007.


The recession has caused a significant increase in the number of people receiving out of work benefits in Wolverhampton. A lack of vacancies has meant that many people who have been made redundant, including skilled workers, have been unable to re-enter employment as competition for posts has become much greater.

People’s skills and employment prospects are central to economic success. Employment effects often lag economic activity and high levels of long-term unemployment are a common legacy of recessions. Whereas business activity is expected to bounce back relatively quickly, employment often takes longer to return to pre-recession levels.

Benefits Claimants – The effects of the recession upon the city can be demonstrated by comparing the number of people out of work over time. In January 2008 the number of working age people claiming Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) was 7,146 people or 4.7%. For Wolverhampton the total for Dec 2012 was 7.5% showing an increase. During that time, more people have started to claim Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA).

Unemployment data – % of working-age population claiming JSA per month
Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) – The gap in JSA claims has widened between Wolverhampton and the UK average, although rises or falls in the UK rate as a whole tend to be closely mirrored within Wolverhampton. However, JSA claimant rates are not evenly distributed. Some groups and areas have much higher claimant rates than others. Youth unemployment for Wolverhampton was 9.3% in January 2008 (or 2195 18-24 year olds), and in Jan 2016 the value has increased to 5.9%. Furthermore, youth unemployment (as measured by the percentage of 18-24 year olds who are claiming JSA) is particularly acute in two lower super output areas (LSOAs) in the city (LSOA 410 in Bilston East and LSOA 473 in Heath Town). In both of these LSOAs, more than a third of all young people are claiming JSA.

There are geographical variations in unemployment, and unemployment is not evenly distributed throughout Wolverhampton. Since January 2008 until July 2011, almost 70% of Wolverhampton’s total unemployed have resided in areas which are classed as being within the top 20% most deprived nationally. By contrast for England as a whole, roughly 40% of all unemployed people live in areas within the top 20% most deprived nationally.

Out-of-Work benefits – Every quarter, data is released which measures the uptake of Out-of-Work benefits (source: NOMIS) which consist of Jobseekers’ Allowance, Incapacity Benefit, Employment Support Allowance, and Lone Parents for each local authority. The total claimant rate for out-of-work benefits was 17.4% in February 2008, and peaked at 20.2% in November 2009. It has been falling steadily subsequently, and now stands at 14.5% for Aug 2015.

Benefits Data Out Of Work

Employment Rate – The Employment Rate for Wolverhampton has been declining. The employment rate for Wolverhampton is consistently lower than both the regional and national averages and fell significantly from early 2006, at least a year before the first impacts of the recession were felt in other areas. The rate for Wolverhampton was 63.6% in 2007 and 60% in 2010. This is far behind England (70.4%). The employment rate is a key top tier measure in the City Strategy, so it is a priority for many agencies in the city. The employment rate in all Black Country authorities has declined since 2007, so it is not an isolated occurrence. The low levels of employment facilitate high levels of debt and financial exclusion in the city. For instance, total clients from Wolverhampton who sought the assistance of the Citizens Advice Bureau regarding debt was 3465 cases (09/10 Financial Year) and 3025 cases (10/11 Financial Year).

Employment Rate

Pay – Although many would argue that unemployment has so far not risen as much as feared, the downside to the recession is that deals introduced which freeze pay or reduce hours have the effect of lowering earnings. This in turn could push some people into what the GHK Economic Assessment (2010) calls ‘in-work poverty’. This is where working families don’t have an income that is high enough to lift them over the poverty line. Couples with children where only one adult is working have a particularly high risk of in-work poverty.

Median Pay – The gross median full-time pay in Wolverhampton has risen locally, in contrast to trends for England as a whole. Median pay is where 50% of the employed population are above the number, and 50% of the employed population are below it. This can be used as a good marker of relative levels of pay in different sectors. Comparing 2007 and 2012, pay for full-time employees rose by £2,648, slightly higher than the £2,320 rise for England. Wolverhampton, in 2012, had the highest full-time earnings of any Black Country local authority, for both males and females. The gap in median earnings with England has narrowed since 2007.

Median annual pay for full time workers (workplace)

Self Employed – Wolverhampton has had increasing rates of self employment over the past few years. Between 2007 and 2010 in Wolverhampton, self-employment increased from 10% of the working-age population to 13.8% of the working-age population. Within Wolverhampton, self-employment is much more common amongst males (19.7% in 2010) than females (7.1% in 2010). Wolverhampton’s rate of self-employment in 2010 was higher than England, which may illustrate a growing entrepreneurial culture locally. People may decide to become self-employed for many reasons, but on a wider level the differences in employment and self-employment can be attributed to many factors such as the industrial structure of the area, availability of skills and markets for the products, as well as personal working preferences. Different geographic features such as urban or rural locations can also influence the type of employment patterns in a local area. The ease of access to local networks and contacts, and whether business can be conducted over the internet, has an increasing impact.

% of People Aged 16 – 64 in Employment who are Self Employed

Jobs within Local Catchment – The percentage of people of working age (aged 16 to 74 years) living within the catchment area of a location with more than 500 jobs by public transport and/or walking, is an indicator which measures the percentage of people of economically active age with access within a reasonable time to more than 500 jobs by public transport, cycling and/or walking. The indicator is calculated by The Department for Transport (DfT) as part of the Core Accessibility Indicators and it weights the basic travel time to employment with a “deterrence factor” (which reflects people’s willingness to make long journeys to access employment, e.g. the further away the employment location, the less likely an individual would be to travel to it). The Black Country is an area of high population density, with many communities in or near to sizable employment opportunities. The results for Wolverhampton show a low level of the working age population with access to 500+ jobs by public transport within a reasonable time in Wolverhampton.
The % of employed residents who have Managerial or Professional Jobs is a dataset which details the percentage of all employees whose jobs are in Soc 2000 major groups 1-3 (1 – Managers and Senior Officials; 2 – Professional Occupations; 3 – Associate professional & technical). This is broadly the professional and managerial classes, and their jobs are those which have high status and responsibility. Taken from the ONS Annual Population Survey, the date covers calendar years (for instance, 2008 covers January 2008 to December 2008).
Migrant Workers – In recent years, new arrivals from European Accession countries (A8) have had an impact on the city’s population, which is now more diverse. The free movement of workers across the European Union (EU) is one of the key factors affecting population change in recent years. In 2004 the EU expanded to include the A8 and A2 countries making way for increased numbers of workers from the EU. At a national level, since 2007, there has been a decline in the number of overseas nationals registering to work in the England and Wales, as in-migration from the EU and beyond has tapered off. It has remained relatively stable in Wolverhampton, with no real change in the rate of overseas nationals registering to work in. The existing methods of collecting and collating data on migration are not comprehensive or consistent. The two most commonly used sources are NiNO and WWRS.
The skills of Wolverhampton’s residents and the employees at its businesses are important for assessing the local economy. In 2010, 19% of Wolverhampton’s residents had degree-level qualifications, and 20% had no qualifications. Despite the presence of leading edge companies in the city, the percentage of Wolverhampton’s residents qualified to degree level or higher is well below the average for the region and England and Wales. According to the Wolverhampton Economic Assessment, Wolverhampton has a two-tier workforce, with low skills being a particular challenge, in part because of commuting patterns in which those in higher paid, higher skilled jobs live outside the city and commute in. Despite the presence of leading edge companies in the city, the percentage of Wolverhampton’s residents qualified to degree level or higher is well below the average for the region and England and Wales.

Nearly a quarter of Wolverhampton’s residents are educated to degree level or higher while 1 in five has no qualifications. Nearly one quarter of the working age population has no qualification. A high proportion of residents with low skills results in employers needing to look beyond the city to draw in high skilled labour. Furthermore, those with no qualifications reduce their prospects and the productivity of their employers and they themselves are limited by the oppotunities that therefore exist for them.

Residents and their Qualifications – Adults with low skill levels enter the labour market with many disadvantages which affects their employability. The lower an adult’s qualifications, the more likely they are to be out of work or in low-paid work. Skills and education are key, both in terms of getting work and, if in work, getting a reasonable rate of pay. Low skills affect a person’s life chances. Low skilled work is often less secure, and in many instances the opportunity for progression may not exist. The economic downturn will have an impact on adults and access to jobs. The introduction of university fees may result in reduced access to higher education for some. However, once the economic downturn has passed, those with for example A-levels or degrees are likely to once again improve their job opportunities and wage potential.

The table below (from the Annual Population Survey) shows that since 2007, the percentage of Wolverhampton residents with no qualifications has decreased, and this decrease has been at a much faster rate than for neighbouring authorities.
Qualifications and the Census 2011 – Positively, the percentage of people in the city with no qualifications has fallen since 2001 from 41% to 31%. This is -8% lower than the England result. The percentage of residents with Level 1 and 2 qualifications has reduced slightly by -2% and -1% respectively (14% and 15%). Those with Level 3 qualifications has risen by 4% to 11% since 2001 and the percentage of residents with Level 4/5 qualifications (e.g. bachelor’s degree) has risen by +6% to 20%. There continues to be a gap between local and national levels of qualifications where nationally the percentage of people with Level 4/5 qualifications is now higher (27%) than the percentage of people with no qualifications (23%).

Employment and Qualifications – People’s skills and employment prospects are central to economic success. Employment effects often lag economic activity and high levels of long-term unemployment are a common legacy of recessions. Whereas business activity is expected to bounce back relatively quickly, employment often takes longer to return to pre-recession levels. Below you will see a table which illustrates the percentage of all employees with no formal qualification. Although the rate has fallen since 2007, there is still a high proportion of economically active people, and those in employment, in Wolverhampton who have no qualifications. While in work, their prospects, and the productivity of their employers, are limited by a lack of qualification and skills.Those in employment who have no qualifications has halved from 2007 to 2010. In 2007, 24% of those in employment had no qualifications, and in 2013 this is was 14%.
Place – As illustrated by GHK in the ‘Wolverhampton Economic Assessment’ 2010, ‘People, business and community come together in a ‘place’. ‘Place’, in turn influences these factors through the quality of its physical infrastructure and wider environment. Most businesses choose to invest in places where they can find a suitable office space, good amenities, and connectivity to their key markets. Workers are more prone to locate in places which offer attractive housing, good schooling and excellent amenities such as good quality leisure and retail facilities. The environment, infrastructure and green that comply with high environmental standards is becoming increasingly relevant. This section of the profile will show some of the indicators which have an impact and influence Wolverhampton’s attractiveness to employers and employees.

The Housing Needs Study 2007 provides information on affordability, both in private rented and owner occupied properties in Wolverhampton. Affordability was highlighted as being a problem in Wolverhampton for those renting and buying, particularly for newly forming households and first time buyers. Since the 2007 study, local housing markets have changed considerably and house prices have fallen across the city, however, affordability remains a problem as local wages have not risen and due to a rise in unemployment which will have impacted on the income of many households across the city. The most up to date indication of affordability comes from the 13/14 Housing Market Briefing .

Housing affordability – Housing affordability plays a key role in economic development. If residents are unable to find inadequate housing the city will not benefit from future jobs growth and associated local increased spending. In Wolverhampton, there is a great need to build more affordable housing. Securing housing delivery is difficult under the current economic circumstances, but the Council and partners work closely together to try to ensure that housing delivery is maximised, for both affordable and private housing.

Employment – The effects of the recession upon the city will have an impact on choices that people make, for example first time buyers, or people in jobs which have been effected by the economic downturn. The economic change in the city can be shown for example by comparing the number of people out of work. In January 2008 4.7% (7,146 people) of people were claiming Job Seekers Allowance (JSA). This has steadily increased, and by Dec 2012 7.5% were claiming JSA. To see the rate of change please click on Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA). The gap in JSA claims has widened between Wolverhampton and the UK average, although rises or falls in the UK rate as a whole tend to be closely mirrored within Wolverhampton. JSA claimant rates are not evenly distributed amonst groups of people based on age or geographical location. Some groups and areas have much higher claimant rates than others. Youth unemployment was 9.3% in January 2008 (or 2195 18-24 year olds), and in Jan 2016 the value was 5.9. In terms of geography, the JSA data shows that there are two lower super output area’s (LSOA’s which are small clusters of housing) in the city in which between 36 to 40% of people aged 18 – 24 are claiming JSA. The life choices and housing choices made by this group will be influenced by their earning potential. The Employment Rate for Wolverhampton has also been declining. In 2007 the Employment Rate was 63.6% and in in 2007 this has dropped to 60% in 2010, which is much lower than the England averagae (70.4%).

Earnings to House Prices – The chart below shows that in 2012 the average house price for the lower 25% of houses in Wolverhampton was 87500. This means that the bottom 25% of all earners who eran an average of £17526 would need 4.8 times their wage.

Lower Quartile (bottom 25%) House Price to Lower Quartile Earnings Ratio
Average House Prices – Since 2007, Wolverhampton house prices have continued to decrease. In 2007, Wolverhampton’s average house price was £138, 322 and in 2012, this is now £132484. Sandwell have seen an increase in price since 2009, as have Walsall, however house price averages for both are still lower than in 2007. Conversely Dudley’s average house price is almost equal to that of 2007. House prices continue to follow a long established trend of being higher in the Western side of the city, and Tettenhall was one of the areas of the city that were viewed most positively in the Place Survey 2009.
In January 2011, a total of 36 Black Country companies (covering every Black Country constituency) secured contracts for London 2012 Olympics, including two firms from Wolverhampton. Construction firm Carillion Plc were contracted to build the International Media Centre on Olympic Park (£355 million) and they have been awarded a £90m contract by Network Rail to upgrade London’s over ground rail network. Zaun Fencing Ltd won many tenders on the Olympic Park to supply high security fencing and gates.

A unique feature of Wolverhampton is that it is home to 4 leading Aerospace companies. This sector provides high value knowledge worker jobs and makes a significant contribution to economic vitality and GVA. The focus for growth in this sector is on market opportunities presented by the “New Short Range” aircraft programmes (replacements for the high volume Boeing 737 and Airbus A320). Additionally, there are specialism’s specific to the Wolverhampton local economies, including Manufacture of transport and aerospace equipment in Wolverhampton.
Additional employment floorspace is an indicator which shows how much land has been completed (i.e. physically built) in the City for employment development and how much floorspace is now available. This indicates how vibrant the market is and investor confidence. This should indicate that further job opportunities are now available and also indicates how vibrant the market is and how confident investors / businesses are about the City.

Total amount of floorspace of completed significant retail, office and leisure developments (m2) in Wolverhampton is monitored to provide an indication of the strength of the commercial market, the amount of growth / investment and the location of development. There are also numerous new retail, office and leisure developments over 500 square metres, and in addition there has been an increase in the total amount of additional employment floorspace. In 08/09 there were 20595 square metres of floorspace completed, and for Apr 2011 – Mar 2012 was 7573 square metres. Both measures demonstrate that the city has capacity to host new or expanding businesses, as well as good transport links outward.
Job Density – This is an important indicator which highlights the vitality of the local labour market. Job density shows the ratio between the total number of jobs to working-age population. An area with a low job density means that residents are not employed locally (for instance, commuting), or the area is an area of high unemployment or economic inactivity. In 2000, the jobs density was 0.78 and in 2009 the jobs density was 0.75. Wolverhampton’s job density peaked in 2006 at 0.82, which was higher than England at the time, and the decline since may be attributable to the recession. The rate is generally 0.02 or 0.03 higher for England than for Wolverhampton, for instance in 2009 jobs density for England was 0.78.

Job Density

Job Centre Plus – This number of Job Centre Plus vacancies shows the total vacancies for each local authority which are notified to Jobcentre Plus. Jobcentre Plus only handles a certain proportion of vacancies in the economy. This proportion varies over time, according to the occupation and industry of the vacancies, and according to geographical location. Measures of Jobcentre Plus market share will always be inexact but recent estimates from surveys suggest that it is between about one-third and a half nationally.
Occupational Groups – The Census 2020 provides data on the occupational groups that Wolverhampton residents fall into. Overall the three occupational groups with the highest percentage of Wolverhampton residents are:

  • Elementary (e.g. foundry labourers, postal workers, kitchen assistants etc) 15%
  • Professional (e.g. teaching professionals, dental practitioners, solicitors etc) 14%; and
  • Skilled Trades (e.g. tool makers, mechanics etc) 12%.
  • Most significantly there are +5% more people in Professional occupations and +3% in Personal Services. In addition there are -3% fewer people in Managerial and Plant and Machine occupations respectively than in 2001. The three occupational groups with the highest percentage of male residents are:
  • Skilled Trades 20%
  • Plant and Machine Operatives 12%
  • Elementary 15%
  • Most significantly there are now -4% less men who are managers and -3% fewer men working in Plant and Machine occupations. There are also +3% more men working in Professional occupations than in 2001. The three occupational groups with the highest percentage of female residents are:
  • Admin/Secretarial 18%
  • Personal Services (e.g. care assistants, hairdressers, caretakers etc) 18%; and
  • Professional 16%
  • Most significantly +8% more females are now working in Professional occupations than in 2001 and +6% are now working in Personal Services than in 2001.
  • Industry of employment – Of those in employment, the Census shows that the top five industries in which Wolverhampton residents work are:
  • Wholesale and Retail trade and Repair of motor vehicles 17%
  • Human, Health and Social Work 14%
  • Manufacturing 13%
  • Education 10%; and
  • Construction 7%.