There was some good news for the UK economy earlier this month when it was revealed that unemployment is at its lowest since 2008.
While wages continue to stagnate, 146,000 more people have at least some work, with those claiming Jobseeker's Allowance falling below one million for the first time in six years.
However, these figures mask some stark differences. While recruitment is booming in some parts of the country, other areas have as many as 15 jobseekers per advertised vacancy. In other words, your chances of finding a job vary enormously, depending on where you're looking.
Many jobs in Cambridge
Jobs website Adzuna recently released its latest job market report, showing that, once again, Cambridge tops the list as the easiest place in the UK to find a job, with almost ten times as many positions advertised as there are job-seekers chasing them.
Many of these jobs, of course, are highly specialist, with Cambridge having nearly two and a half times as many people working in the tech industry as the national average, according to research earlier this year from accountancy firm KPMG.
"The Cambridge–Stansted–London corridor is key centres of gravity for tech sector employment and major infrastructure advantages for local authorities that lie in this corridor are good road transport links to central London and Stansted Airport via the M11, as well as direct train routes to key parts of the capital's tech scene."
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Shortness of skills a problem in some areas
Most of the top-performing areas are in the south-east - but Aberdeen is a notable exception. Here, it's the oil and gas industry that's generating work.
There are nearly four times as many job vacancies as there are jobseekers - and bosses are worried they won't be able to fill them. A survey by the Bank of Scotland earlier this year found that nearly four in ten companies believed that a shortage of skilled workers would be their biggest problem this year.
Other places on the list, though, have a broader range of jobs. Guildford, for example, has several major employers, including Philips Electronics, Ericsson and Colgate-Palmolive, as well as a thriving computer games industry. Reading, Milton Keynes and Slough, thanks largely to their good transport links, benefit from similar concentrations of large businesses.
At the other end of the scale, though, prospects for job-hunters are very different indeed. In Salford, the city with the most competition for work, there are more than 15 jobseekers per vacancy, meaning there's 150 times as much competition for each job as there is in Cambridge. The Wirral and Sunderland fare little better.
Things are better than they were. According to figures from the Office for National Statistics, unemployment in the north west fell by 27,000 to 239,000 between May and July this year. However, these figures may be misleading, says John Holden, acting director of economic strategy for economic think-tank New Economy.
"In particular, the shift to the new Universal Credit is flattering Jobseeker's Allowance figures by a few thousand claimants in Greater Manchester," he warns. "The very large falls seen in JSA claimants – while very welcome and a good sign of the improving economy – need to be treated with some caution."
Just as all but one of the best places to find a job are in the south, all but one of the worst are in the north. The exception is Southend-on-Sea - officially one of the most deprived areas in Britain. However, earlier this year, a new 'city deal' was announced, bringing £6 million of investment to the Essex town. "It is a great place for businesses to locate, expand or start up," says minister for cities Greg Clarke.
It's probably not terribly practical for all the unsuccessful job-hunters in Salford to up sticks and move to Cambridge. It is, though, helpful to know exactly where to focus your search. And, even in the north-west, the situation is improving, as manufacturing opportunities start to increase. Across the country as a whole, there are now only 1.06 job seekers per vacancy, compared with 1.99 last summer. As Adzuna predicts, "If this rate continues, we may see more vacancies than jobseekers nationwide for the first time since the recession."
Worst cities to find a job
Rank City Jobseekers per vacancy
1 Salford 15.33
2 The Wirral 12.93
3 Sunderland 11.80
4 Rochdale 8.09
5 Bradford 5.40
6 Hull 5.11
7 Swansea 4.30
8 Wolverhampton 3.96
9 Southend-on-Sea 3.94
10 Middlesborough 3.43
Best cities to find a job
Rank City Jobseekers per vacancy
1 Cambridge 0.11
2 Guildford 0.13
3 Winchester 0.18
4 Oxford 0.21
5 Reading 0.22
6 Aberdeen 0.27
7 Exeter 0.32
8 Milton Keynes 0.32
9 Slough 0.36
10 Bristol 0.48
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