London shows signs of recovery but still lags behind international competitors, new data reveals
New analysis of the economic recovery of global cities commissioned by the London Property Alliance reveals that in 2021, London recorded a somewhat modest economic recovery but was still operating below pre-Pandemic (2019) levels. Much catching up is needed to outperform international competitors, the report concludes.
The Global Cities Survey provides an analysis of the latest data available across a range of 18 economic and societal indices for London, New York, Paris, Berlin and Hong Kong. These include amongst others, employment rates, public transport, office vacancies and rents, station and retail visits, the cost of living, air passenger demand and new home completions.
Alexander Jan, Chief Economic Advisor to London Property Alliance and one of the authors of the survey, said: “Our analysis shows that there are some green shoots of recovery and London is proving resilient across a range of benchmarks. That being said, the impact of the Omicron surge on footfall and the continued uncertainty around TfL’s long term funding mean London’s recovery is precarious.
“With London and other world cities facing unique opportunities and challenges as they battle with and then emerge from the pandemic, the Global Cities Survey can help provide a clear picture of London’s unique strengths, as well as opportunities for improvement compared with its competitors on the world stage.”
Globally, different governments’ responses to the pandemic have had a major impact across all indices. In particular London, Paris and Hong Kong – all of which had significant furlough schemes in place – recorded comparatively smaller increases in unemployment.
Hong Kong’s “zero Covid-19” policy meant office, stations and retail visits remained comparable to pre-pandemic levels but have also led to a huge reduction in air passenger numbers.
The data is not all bad news for London. Prime office rents (in London’s West End) rebounded by more than any other city (increasing 18% Q3, year on year) as companies sought out high quality office space. Paris, New York (Midtown), Berlin and Hong Kong all recorded a softening in rents as did the London City market. And employment in London is highest for any of the cities surveyed, when measured in percentage terms against Q2/Q3 2019 baselines.
The Global Cities Survey analyses 18 key indicators including economic output, mobility, job vacancies, unemployment rates, the cost of living, office vacancy and rents and retail visits. The research is designed to provide an up-to-date understanding of London’s strengths as well as opportunities for improvement compared against its competitors on the world stage.
Charles Begley, Chief Executive of London Property Alliance said: “London’s fight for talent, investment and visitors is global, it is therefore vital to look beyond the UK to compare its performance against other global cities in the recovery from Covid-19 and beyond.
“In collaboration with independent think tank, Centre for London, which has been commissioned to provide data for quarterly surveys for up to two years, the analysis will remain an open source to help inform policy and remind political leaders of the capital’s critical role in supporting the UK economy.”
|City ranking by category (1=top; 5 =bottom)|
|London||New York||Paris||Berlin||Hong Kong|
|Economy and employment||=1||4||3||5||=1|
|Retail and hospitality||3||5||4||2||1|
|Transport (public and vehicle use)||=3||5||2||=3||1|
Economy and employment
- London has seen the most dramatic swings in its growth alongside New York (at a state level). Hong Kong’s depressed performance in Q3, 2021 seems set to continue amid political instability and strict lockdowns.
- Berlin and New York have suffered from consistently higher unemployment rates since the pandemic commenced with Berlin’s unemployment level at nearly 10% (Q3, 2021)
- Despite the positive impact of the furlough scheme, London’s unemployment rate at 5.6% (Q3, 2021) remained the highest for any region of the United Kingdom; well above the UK average of 4.3%.
- In all cities, office vacancy rates have risen sharply during the pandemic period but there are signs of recovery except for New York. Prime office rent figures for Q3, 2021 show London’s West End values rebounding but the City is still in negative territory.
- With the notable exception of Hong Kong, office working activity remained significantly lower than pre-pandemic levels in London, Paris, Berlin and New York. This is reflected in indicators of public transport demand.
- Towards the end of November 2021, with the exception of Hong Kong, retail visitor activity across all cities remained below pre-pandemic levels (benchmarked to corresponding 2019 weekly periods).
- High Street consumer activity was still below pre-Covid-19 levels in London, Paris and New York, despite the lifting of many restrictions.
- Whilst public transport use remains depressed, road congestion has exceeded pre-pandemic levels in London, New York and Paris.
- The slow rate of return to public transport in London is particularly concerning given that some 72% of TfL’s total funding in 2020/21 was derived from passenger fares, a much higher proportion than New York (41%, 2018 data), Paris (36%, 2017) and Hong Kong (36%, 2018), all of which receive greater subsidy in the form of grants and local taxes and commercial income and all of which have received much more positive support for Covid related losses from their governments.
- With the exception of Hong Kong, air travel demand and visitors were gradually returning to many cities, but London’s position remains comparatively weak. Hong Kong numbers remain very depressed.
- Data on Airbnb occupancy showed that despite the reopening of the UK to more international visitors in autumn 2021, occupancy in Paris, Berlin and New York was higher (all close to 40%) compared to London (31%). Hong Kong recorded only 8% occupancy.
Cost of Living
- New York has by far the highest cost of living where rents are included; less so when rent is factored out. For nearly all cities and all measures, there has been an increase in the cost living in 2021 when compared to New York.
- With rent included, London is the second most expensive compared to New York just above Hong Kong. But Paris moves into second position when rents are excluded. Berlin is the least expensive by both measures.
Crime and Housing
- Trends in crime rates across all of the cities surveyed follow a similar pattern when benchmarked against corresponding 2019 data.
- London and Paris experienced very significant drops in their reported crime rates relative to 2019 as the first coronavirus lockdowns were introduced in March 2020, with London falling to 83% of its 2019 rate and Paris to just 28%.
- Most cities, with the exception of Hong Kong, saw a notable decrease in the number of new homes completed in 2020, due to the pandemic’s effects on construction labour, materials, and supply chains.
The Global Cities Survey is available at:
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About the London Property Alliance
London Property Alliance brings together the Westminster Property Association (WPA) and the City Property Association (CPA). The Alliance provides a unified voice for the leading owners, developers, investors and professional advisors of real estate across Central London.
About Centre for London
Centre for London is London’s dedicated think tank. The Centre undertakes research and organises events aimed at developing new solutions to the capital’s critical challenges. Centre for London is a registered charity and politically independent, advocating for a fair and prosperous global city.Read the research here