Leeds is the largest city in the county of West Yorkshire, England. It has an economy with large tourism, financial and commercial sectors. The river Aire flows through the city. Leeds was a small manorial borough in the 13th century, becoming a major centre for the production and trading of wool in the 17th and 18th centuries, then a major mill town during the Industrial Revolution; wool was still the dominant industry, but flax, engineering, iron foundries, printing, and other industries were also important. From being a market town in the valley of the River Aire in the 16th century, Leeds expanded and absorbed the surrounding villages to become a populous urban centre by the mid 20th century. The City of Leeds metropolitan borough also includes the towns of Horsforth, Morley, Otley, Pudsey and Wetherby.
Leeds has the most diverse economy of all the UK's main employment centres and has seen the fastest rate of private sector jobs growth of any UK city and has the highest ratio of public to private sector jobs of all the UK's Core Cities. The city had the third-largest jobs total by local authority area with 480,000 in employment and self-employment. 24.7% were in public administration, education and health, 23.9% were in banking, finance and insurance and 21.4% were in distribution, hotels and restaurants. It is in the banking, finance and insurance sectors that Leeds differs most from the financial structure of the region and the nation. There are 130,100 jobs in the city centre, accounting for 31% of all jobs in the wider district. 47,500 jobs were in finance and business, 42,300 in public services, and 19,500 in retail and distribution. 43% of finance sector jobs in the district are contained in Leeds city centre and 44% of those employed in the city centre live more than nine kilometres away.
The financial and services industry in Leeds is worth more than £2.1 billion, the fifth-largest in the UK. Tertiary industries such as retail, call centres, offices and media have contributed to a high rate of economic growth. The city also hosts the only subsidiary office of the Bank of England in the UK. GVA for the city was recorded at £18.8 billion, with the entire Leeds City Region generating a £56 billion economy.
Key sectors include finance, retail, leisure and the visitor economy, construction, manufacturing and the creative and digital industries. It has one of the most diverse economies of all the UK's main employment centres and has seen the fastest rate of private-sector jobs growth of any UK city. It also has the highest ratio of private to public sector jobs of all the UK's Core Cities, with 77% of its workforce working in the private sector. Leeds has the third-largest jobs total by local authority area, with 480,000 in employment and self-employment. Today, Leeds has become the largest legal and financial centre outside London, with the financial and insurance services industry worth £13 billion to the city's economy.
Office developments, also traditionally located in the inner area, have expanded south of the River Aire and total 1,000,000 m² of space. In the period from 1999 to 2008 £2.5 billion of property development was undertaken in central Leeds; of which £711m has been offices, £265m retail, £389m leisure and £794m housing.
Major companies based in the city include William Hill, International Personal Finance, Asda, Leeds Building Society and Northern Foods. Capita Group, KPMG, Direct Line, Aviva, Yorkshire Building Society, BT Group, Telefónica Europe (O2 Ltd) and TD Waterhouse all also have a considerable presence in the city. In addition to other national governmental offices, the city is home to a large Department for Work and Pensions office building located in Quarry Hill, notable[according to whom?] for its imposing design.
Finance Leeds is the largest centre outside London for financial and business services. The economy is forecast to grow by 25% with financial and business services set to generate over half of GVA growth over that period with Finance and business services accounting for 38% of total output. The finance and business service sector account for 38% of total output with more than 30 national and international banks located in the city, including an office of the Bank of England.
Leeds has over 30 national and international banks, many of whose northern or regional offices are based in the city. It is the headquarters for First Direct and Yorkshire Bank, and has large Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, NatWest Group and Santander operations.
The city is also an important centre for equity, venture and risk finance. The venture capital provider, YFM Equity Partners, founded in Leeds, is now the UK's largest provider of risk capital to small and medium-sized enterprises.
Law There are around 150 law firms operating in Leeds, employing over 6,700 people. According to The UK Legal 500, "Leeds has a sophisticated and highly competitive legal market, second only to London". Specialist legal expertise to be found in Leeds includes corporate finance, corporate restructuring and insolvency, global project financing, trade and investment, commercial litigation, competition, construction, Private Finance Initiatives and Public Private Partnerships, tax, derivatives, IT, employment, pensions, intellectual property, sport and entertainment. The establishment of an Administrative Court in Leeds in April 2009 reinforced Leeds's position as one of the UK's key legal centres. The court previously sat only in London.
Manufacturing Leeds is the UK's third-largest manufacturing centre and 50% of the UK's manufacturing base is within a two-hour drive of Leeds. With around 1,800 firms and 39,000 employees, Leeds manufacturing firms account for 8.8% of total employment in the city. The largest sub-sectors are engineering, printing and publishing, food and drink, chemicals and medical technology.
Graphics and gaming There is an established creative industry in the city, particularly in the digital gaming sector. A number of large developers have studios in and around the city, including Activision, developers of the mobile versions of the Call of Duty series, and Rockstar Leeds, developers of the Grand Theft Auto series. In 2009 Leeds was the first city outside London to host the Eurogamer Expo.
Leisure and tourism Tourism is important to the Leeds economy, in 2009 Leeds was the eighth-most visited city in England by UK visitors. and the 13th most visited city by overseas visitors. Research by VisitEngland reported that the day visitor market to Leeds attracts 24.9 million people each year, worth over £654 million to the local economy. In the 2017 Condé Nast Traveler survey of readers, Leeds rated 6th among The 15 Best Cities in the UK for visitors. In 2016, Leeds received 27.29 million leisure tourist visits generating over £1.6 bn for the city, according to data from a STEAM survey. The industry supported over 19,000 full-time equivalent jobs in 2016.
Public sector In Leeds, 108,000 people work in the public sector—24% of the workforce. The largest employers are Leeds City Council, with 33,000 staff, and the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, with 14,000 staff. Leeds has become a hub of public-sector health bodies. The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), NHS England, the Care Quality Commission, NHS Digital, and Public Health England all have large offices in Leeds. Europe's largest teaching hospital is also based in Leeds, and is home to the Yorkshire Cancer Centre, the largest of its kind in Europe. Key government departments and organisations in Leeds include the Department for Work and Pensions, with over 3,000 staff, the DHSC, with over 800 staff, HM Revenue and Customs with over 1,200 staff and the British Library with 1,100 staff.
Shopping The extensive retail area of Leeds is identified as the principal regional shopping centre for the whole of the Yorkshire and the Humber region with a catchment of 5.5 million people offering a spend of £1.93 billion annually. There are a number of indoor shopping centres in the centre of the city, including the Merrion Centre, St John's Centre, The Core, the Victoria Quarter, The Light, the Corn Exchange, Trinity Leeds, and Victoria Gate. In total there are well over 1,000 retail stores, with a combined floorspace of 340,000 m². in Leeds City Centre. The city centre has a large pedestrian zone. Briggate is the main shopping street where one can find many well-known British High Street stores, including Marks & Spencer, House of Fraser, Debenhams, Topshop, Costa Coffee and Harvey Nichols. Many companies have several stores within Central Leeds and the wider city.
The Victoria Quarter is notable for its high-end luxury retailers and impressive architecture. 70 stores such as Louis Vuitton, Vivienne Westwood, Paul Smith, Diesel and anchor Harvey Nichols are contained within two iron-wrought Victorian arcades, and a new arcade formed by arcading Queen Victoria Street with the largest expanse of stained glass in Britain. In the Churwell area of Leeds is the White Rose Shopping Centre. The centre has over 100 high street stores anchored by Debenhams, Marks & Spencer, Primark and Sainsbury's. Some stores have their only Leeds presence here and do not trade in Central Leeds, such as the Disney Store and Build-A-Bear workshop. The centre remains popular with national and international chains. Of the 40,000 people who work in retailing in Leeds 75% work in places which are not located in the city centre. There are additional shopping centres located in the many surrounding villages and towns.
Trinity Leeds is Leeds's largest shopping centre. The modern and interactive retail space covers the old Burton Arcades and the former Leeds Shopping Plaza with its main entrance from Briggate.
Victoria Gate is Leeds's newest shopping centre. The shopping mall houses a flagship John Lewis store, the largest outside London. Seventy-five per cent of the stores that opened in Victoria Gate were new to Leeds with many of those stores being the first outside of London.
Leeds is home to one of the largest indoor markets in Europe, Leeds Kirkgate Market. Leeds also has various regular local markets in Otley, Pudsey, and Yeadon. There is an annual German Christmas Market ("Christkindelmarkt") based in Millennium Square, usually running from early November to mid-late December.
Leeds is rated High Sufficiency by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network (GaWC) which evaluates and ranks the relationships between world cities in the context of globalisation. High Sufficiency level cities are cities that have a sufficient degree of services so as not to be overly dependent on world cities.
Leeds is ranked #158 by the Global Urban Competitiveness Report (GUCR) which evaluates and ranks world cities in the context of economic competitiveness. Leeds was ranked #964 by the Nomad List which evaluates and ranks remote work hubs by cost, internet, fun and safety. Leeds has a population of over 780,000 people. Leeds also forms part of the wider Leeds-Bradford metropolitan area which has a population of over 2,302,000 people. Leeds is the #82 hipster city in the world, with a hipster score of 4.778 according to the Hipster Index which evaluates and ranks the major cities of the world according to the number of vegan eateries, coffee shops, tattoo studios, vintage boutiques, and record stores per 100,000 city residents.