THE number of jobs lost in Glasgow due to the Covid-19 pandemic is set to be lower than feared - but around 20,000 could go.

Recent analysis has shown the economic outlook is “significantly brighter” than six months ago.

Predictions last year had suggested between 60,000 and 100,000 could be lost.

Younger people are “disproportionately” affected, but there is emerging data showing over-55s are at risk too.

Research has been carried out by the Glasgow City Region intelligence hub - set up to provide analysis and evidence to Glasgow City Council and surrounding local authorities.

Andrew Robertson, the hub’s manager, said: “It’s clearly bad, it’s having an impact on young people disproportionately, but it’s probably not as bad as it was looking.

“We’re starting to see some positive messages.”

At one point, there were estimates that unemployment could double, he said, but it is now suggested the rise could be below 6%. It rose above 10% during the last financial crisis.

In December, the hub reported 30,000 jobs could be lost across Glasgow and surrounding areas after carrying out economic modelling based on data from the Office of Budget Responsibility.

Mr Robertson said that “might be closer” to 20,000 but it is “difficult” to project UK analysis on to the City Region.

Asked why the projections had changed, he said: “I think it’s just the success of the furlough scheme.

“It’s such a unique economic event and a unique response from government.

“The government has propped up jobs, otherwise they would have gone. The success of grants and getting those grants out quickly has kept people employed.”

Household incomes have fallen, Mr Robertson said, but “the expectation is that there is this pent-up demand”.

Demand will go into sectors, such as retail and hospitality, which have been “significantly impacted”, he added.

He pointed out Bank of England economist Andy Haldane had recently suggested the UK economy could be booming within a year.

The hub is working with the Urban Big Data centre at the University of Glasgow to assess footfall in the city centre.

“They’ve procured mobile phone data,” Mr Robertson explained. “That’s allowing us to get insights into how people are moving around in the year prior to Covid, what’s happening during Covid and what’s going to happen in the year after it.

“This will come on a monthly basis with a two-week time lag. We’ll be able to see for the first time, in near to real time, what’s happening to footfall and where the demand is.”

The data will allow the hub to monitor future demand for office space as well as influence transport and open space strategies in the city.

Staff in the hub have also supported the City Region’s recovery plan, including an ambitious energy retrofit programme which could target over 420,000 homes across Glasgow and surrounding areas.

The programme – which could include home insulation and low/zero emission heating technologies – has been described by Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken as “potentially one of the single biggest things that we have to collectively do”.

The retrofit programme is the “centrepiece” of the region’s recovery planning, Mr Robertson said.

“If we can find the right funding mechanisms then the market will respond,” he believes. It would create jobs and play a “critical” role in helping the city reach net zero carbon emissions targets.

He also said there will be employment opportunities in the next few years, with Skills Development Scotland analysis showing replacement demand in the public sector alone could provide over 30,000 openings.

“Over 15,000 within things like the care sector,” he added. “The challenge for us will be, we’ve got people losing jobs in things like the retail sector, which have complementary skills to things like the care sector.

“I think the focus of our work will be how do you make these sectors attractive to young people in the future.”

Alongside the Fraser of Allander Institute at the University of Strathclyde, the hub is working on a computable general equilibrium model, which will assess the impact of policies.

“I think the only region outside Glasgow that has one of these is London, although I think Cardiff is working on it,” Andrew said.

It will further reduce the need for consultants and improve understanding of the impact of policies – such as the retrofit programme – on employment and the economy.


Glasgow City Region intelligence hub - the background

Formally launched in July 2019, the hub is currently made up of Mr  Robertson and two analysts.

It brought economic insight in-house and is estimated to have saved £250,000, which would have been spent on consultants.

The team is set to grow, with the recruitment process under way for a graduate post and approval to bring in a senior economist.

It is the first of its kind in Scotland and aims to support policy development, make the case for investment in the region and cut the spend on consultants.

Mr Robertson said: “The Covid situation meant there has been a lot of demand for economic intelligence.

“We’ve been set up in a way that we’re able to do that quite quickly.”

Mr Robertson, who spent 12 years working for a consultancy firm in London and then the Middle East, was brought in to lead the hub.

It has four key areas of work: data analysis, research, modelling and programme selection and evaluation.