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Preston named second best British city for SME jobs

  • SME lender iwoca publishes annual ‘Top 25 Towns & Cities for SME Jobs’ ranking for 2024, revealing the best places in Britain to work for a small business
  • Preston rises seven places to rank second on the list, ranking highly for its low house prices and high density of jobs. 
  • Blackburn and Salford place 7th and 17th respectively, both scoring well for their high rates of SME growth.
  • The ranking uses a range of criteria that jobseekers look for including average wage, commute time, house price, job density and growth in the number of SMEs

Preston is ranked the second best city to work for a small business in Britain, according to new research compiled by iwoca, one of Europe’s largest small business lenders.

iwoca’s ‘Top 25 Towns & Cities for SME Jobs’ list ranks areas using ONS data on average wage, commute, job density, house price and growth of the number of small businesses – – all criteria that jobseekers look for in employment.

The analysis reveals Peterborough, Preston and Newcastle as the top three areas to consider living in if you want to work for a small business.

Preston claims second place, scoring well for its healthy ratio of jobs available per worker and low house prices. There are 1.11 jobs available for every worker in the city and the median house price in Preston is an affordable £155,000. St Albans, by contrast, is the most expensive British city in which to own a home, with house prices averaging £625,000.

The city boasts a high rate of SME growth, with 10% more small businesses in 2023 than in 2018. Average hourly pay has risen by £0.93 in the last year to £18.41, helping Preston rise seven places this year, from ninth to second place.

Preston has benefitted from significant funding for regeneration projects in recent years, including the £200 million Harris Quarter Towns Fund Investment Programme and the new  £35m UCLan Engineering Innovation Centre, boosting the city’s reputation as a dynamic place to live and work.

Preston beats Blackburn and Salford for the top spot in the North West

Blackburn ranks seventh on the list of hotspots for SME jobs this year, down three places from  2023. Blackburn employees enjoy the second shortest commute in the country, at just 15 minutes. The city also has a low median house price of £132,000, ranking eighth across the UK.

Salford falls 15 ranks to 17th place, after failing to maintain the sky-high rate of small business growth of last year. In the period from 2017 to 2022, the number of small businesses grew by 25%, but from 2018 to 2023 it only grew by 10%.

Neither Liverpool or Manchester features in the top 25 list this year, ranking 44th and 75th respectively. Both cities saw the number of small businesses fall between 2018 and 2023, by 0.55% and 4% each.

London missing from top 25 for SME jobs

Greater London fails to feature in iwoca’s Top 25 list for the third time, despite traditionally being considered the most important destination for UK jobseekers. It ranks 83rd due to sky-high house prices, at a median of £530,000, and 40-minute-long commutes, despite having a high average hourly pay, at £26.31.

Mark Whittle from Preston BID, said: “We’re proud to see Preston rising in the ranks, and taking the second spot in this national survey. Preston’s small business community continues to grow; showing grit, resilience and passion. Things that are definitely not in short supply in ‘Proud Preston’.

A huge amount of work has been undertaken of late, and the city has benefitted from significant private sector and government investment in recent years, which undoubtedly has helped Preston on its journey to realising its full potential.

Having 10% more SME’s than back in 2018, and seeing average hourly pay rising to over £18, shows the commitment from a business community brimming with responsible business owners, and entrepreneurial spirit.

Seema Desai, COO at iwoca, said: “SMEs are not only huge assets to our high streets – but they provide millions of opportunities for jobseekers of all levels and generations. Beyond the much-talked-about large corporations, SMEs give workers the fulfilling and diverse careers they strive for, and it’s fantastic to see these opportunities being spread across the country.”


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