This is a fast-moving issue and should be read as correct at the date of publication (01.04.20).

The coronavirus outbreak will have a huge impact on the UK economy. Many businesses will have to close, or reduce the amount they do, at least temporarily. This will lead to a loss of jobs across the economy, although the outbreak will have a greater impact on certain sectors.

This Insight provides an overview of the importance of different sectors to the economy. It looks at the latest statistics on the total value of goods produced and services provided (measured by Gross Value Added), the number of jobs and average earnings in each sector.

This is a fast-moving issue and should be read as correct at the date of publication (01.04.20).

Jobs, earnings and GVA by Sector

The table below shows the total number of jobs in the UK in each broad industrial sector in December 2019, as well as the number of self-employment jobs.

It also shows average weekly earnings for full time employees in 2019, and Gross Value Added (GVA) for 2019, in each of these sectors.

Jobs, average weekly earnings and Gross Value Added by industry sector

Which sectors have the most jobs?

As shown in the table above, the number of jobs is not uniform across sectors. Over a quarter of jobs are in just two of the sectors, and over half of the jobs are in five of the sectors.

The sector with the largest number of jobs is the retail and wholesale sector, with almost 5 million jobs. A further 4.5 million jobs are in the health and care sector. These two sectors combined contain over a quarter of all jobs in the UK, with 13.9% of jobs in retail and wholesale and 12.5% of jobs in the health and care sector.

Which sectors have the most self-employed?

The dominant sector for self-employment jobs is the construction sector, with around 840,000 jobs. This is 17.8% of all self-employment jobs. Over a third of jobs in this sector were construction jobs. In comparison, 13% of all jobs were self-employment jobs.

The chart below shows the sectors where over a quarter of jobs were self-employment jobs. Jobs in the agriculture sector were most likely to be self-employment jobs.

Sectors where more than a quarter of jobs are self-employment jobs

Which sectors are the most vulnerable?

Three of the sectors that are expected to see a particularly negative impact from the coronavirus outbreak are the arts and entertainment, accommodation and catering, and retail and wholesale sectors.

Almost a quarter of all jobs are in these three sectors, as are 17% of self-employment jobs. These sectors are also responsible for 15% of total UK economic output by sector (GVA).

The chart below shows how this is broken down by the three sectors:

Jobs and GVA in selected vulnerable sectors

Notes and sources

This Insight uses broad industrial sectors based on the UK Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) 2007.


Further reading

Coronavirus: Effect on the economy and public finances, House of Commons Library

Support for businesses during the Coronavirus (covid-19) outbreak, House of Commons Library

Coronavirus Bill: Overview, House of Commons Library

Coronavirus: Employment rights and sick pay (update)House of Commons Library

People claiming unemployment benefits by constituency, House of Commons Library

Youth unemployment statistics, House of Commons Library

Labour market statistics: UK regions and countries, House of Commons Library

About the authors: Andrew Powell, Daniel Harari and Brigid Francis-Devine are researchers at the House of Commons Library, specialising in economic policy and statistics .