The Most Common Industries In The UK

The UK economy is currently enjoying some of the most flourishing times in recent history. Did you know that for GDP, the UK is ranked 22nd in the world?

Some of the most common industries in the UK such as finance, science, technology as well as traditional sectors including agriculture, energy and construction have all helped to develop the nation into one of the largest markets in the world.

However, even though times look promising, a stark reminder is that we are currently seeing the lowest unemployment rates since the 1970s.

But how do the current industries in the UK look in 2021? Which industry in the UK has the highest revenue and which is the biggest industry by employment?


Well, we have all those questions answered in this article.

What Are The Largest Industries In The United Kingdom?

If we break down the UK’s distribution of GDP into three key areas, agriculture, industry and services, we can see over a 5 year period how the shares have changed.

Sector201520162017201820192020
Agriculture0.65%0.58%0.57%0.57%0.59%0.57%
Industry18.42%17.85%18.17%18.12%17.83%16.92%
Services70.12%70.68%70.4%70.5%70.9%72.79%

 As you can see, agriculture makes up the smallest portion of the UK GDP, then industry with just over 15% and services accounting for the majority. But when we break these sectors down into individual areas, what sort of statistics can we see?

 Finance

 Key Statistics:

 Over 1 million financial services jobs.

 Accounts for 6.9% of the total economic output.

 In 2019, contributed £132 billion to the UK economy.

 In the European Union, the UK is the largest financial hub, with assets worth roughly £4 trillion. The industry employs more than 1 million people directly, accounting for 3.2% of all jobs, with a further 300,000 in insurance companies.

 In London, major financial companies have their offices, such as:

 Ernst & Young

 Deloitte

 KPMG

 Manufacturing

 Key Statistics:

 £275bn in total exports, 45% of the UK

 69% of business research and development

 Over 2.7 million manufacturing jobs.

 Since 1948, each year the UK’s industrial sector has risen by 1.4%. The total value of UK manufacturers’ product sales, in 2019 dropped by 1.2% to £396.6 billion, however, there have been huge changes to the industry.

 There have been commitments to improve the skill and quality of the workforce with a focus on driving production from low to high productivity goods. There have also been more investments in research and development as well as automation and technology seeing positive changes.

Media and Fashion

 Key Statistics:

 By 2020, e-commerce clothing will hit $450 billion

 Clothing sales have almost doubled from $1 trillion in 2002 to $1.8 trillion.

 UK E&M revenue was £71.3 billion in 2021.

 Film, music and entertainment are some of the sectors that make up the media industry, added together, in the UK they are worth more than £68 billion. This is expected to rise to £80 billion within the next couple of years, making the UK the second-biggest EMEA market behind Germany.

 Video games and podcasts are also within this sector, growing by 29 % year on year. Over 2 million people are estimated to work in the media industry and more than 55,000 in the fashion industry.

 Over the last two decades, the fashion sector has seen a sharp rise in growth, accounting for 5.4% of the national GDP and recently hit a milestone of £32 billion a year.

Food

 Key Statistics:

 More than 4.1m people are employed in the agri-food sector.

 The value of food and drink exports was £23.6 billion in 2019.

 9.4% of national gross value added in 2018.

 In 2018, the agri-food sector contributed £120.2 billion to the national gross value added. Non-residential catering, food and drink retailing and food and drink manufacturing made up the top three contributors in the industry.

 UK food and drink manufacturers employ more than 440,000 people and over the last decade, employment has risen by 19%. The food and drink manufacturing companies in the UK contribute more to the economy than all other manufacturing sectors. This includes automotive and aerospace manufacturing.

 Tourism

 Contributes over £100 billion to the British economy.

 More than 3.8 million jobs.

 Tourism generates 9% of the UK’s GDP.

 Tourism has been the UK’s fastest growing sector since 2010, with forecasts of the industry being worth more than £257 billion by 2025. Annually, there are predictions that there will be an annual growth of 3.8% through 2025, much faster than the UK economy.

 Supporting 11% of the total UK number of jobs, tourism has a knock on effect on the economy. For every £1,000 generated in direct tourism GVA, an extra £1,800 is added elsewhere in the economy via consumer spending.

What Are The Biggest Industries By Revenue In The UK?



IndustryRevenue for 2021
1Supermarkets in the UK$189.9B
2Pension Funding in the UK$155.9B
3Construction Contractors in the UK$121.8B
4Banks in the UK$112.0B
5New Car & Light Motor Vehicle Dealers in the UK$98.4B
6Hospitals in the UK$96.8B
7General Insurance in the UK$70.9B
8Management Consultants in the UK$61.5B
9Pharmaceutical Wholesaling in the UK$61.1B
10Computer Consultants in the UK$55.9B

 Supermarkets

 The supermarket industry has been increasing since 2004, with the size at £192 billion in 2019. The top five supermarket brands are Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons, and Aldi. With shopping habits changing, operators cutting prices to attract customers and discount supermarkets expanding, the market has changed significantly.

 Pension Funding

The Pension Funding industry is critical in the UK, giving people financial security with the state pension alone is not enough for many to live on. Pension funding offers an occupational or personal pension, helping to fund retirement. Over the last few years, the industry’s base has widened and employment has increased.

 Construction Contractors

 Due to the current climate, the construction industry has suffered dramatically. In 2020, industrial output declined by 13.6%, however, there are predictions there will be a rebound in 2021 by 8%, with a further 2.5% up to 2025.

 Through improving investor confidence and investments in renewable energy, transport, commercial infrastructure projects, we are likely to see a rise in building and infrastructure construction contracts.

 Banks

 Accounting for 6.9% of the total economic output, the financial sector added £132 billion to the UK economy, becoming the ninth-biggest in the OECD in 2019. Banking provides services such as mortgages, personal loans, savings and checking accounts, and debit and credit cards.

 However, baking revenue is expected to drop to £99.8 billion at a compound annual rate of 2%.

 What Are The Biggest Industries By Employment In The UK?



IndustryEmployment number for 2021
1Supermarkets in the UK1,220,923
2Hospitals in the UK838,617
3Charities in the UK812,020
4Temporary-Employment Placement Agencies in the UK708,703
5General Secondary Education in the UK695,038
6Direct Selling & Marketing in the UK694,519
7Construction Contractors in the UK548,498
8Full-Service Restaurants in the UK484,693
9Management Consultants in the UK443,799
10Universities in the UK426,120

 Supermarkets

 Out of the UK’s top 10 retailers, the 4 highest place companies are supermarkets. In 2019, the grocery market was worth £192 billion. For Tesco alone, they increased the number of employees to roughly 336 thousand employees in 2021, employing almost 420,000 people worldwide across 5,000 stores.

 Hospitals

 Around seven million people are covered by private medical insurance in the UK, roughly 12% of the population. Providing diagnostic, medical, treatment services, the growing and ageing UK population has increased private hospital demand.

 There is an expected rise in revenue over the next 5 years. At a compound annual rate of 1.6%, it is expected to reach £101 billion.

 Charities

 Through a mixture of high profile scandals, the EU referendum, decreased support from the general public, and public funding cuts, charitable organisations’ surplus margins have dropped, with demand for social services increasing.

 In 2020, overseas aid budgets were cut, adding to further constraints to revenue growth, with an expected drop by 2.7% over the five years through 2021-22.

 Temporary-Employment Placement Agencies in the UK

 To provide temporary cover or to supplement existing workforces, temporary-employment placement agencies work to supply clients with workers. Performances usually are dependent on economic conditions such as business confidence and unemployment rates.

 However, both weak and strong conditions can benefit the industry. Weak conditions can slow hiring activity and strong conditions such as low unemployment forces companies to use employment placement agencies to find staff to fill their required positions.

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