Pub employment on the rise despite closures, says new ONS report

Kate Malczewski

Kate Malczewski

26 November 2018

Finally, a glimmer of hope amid the headlines of restaurants and pubs going bust: a new report from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) reveals that employment in pubs is on the rise and industry turnover is stable, shedding light on how the pub trade is compensating for the staggering number of closures over the past decade.

Fewer venues but more jobs

In 2008, the ONS recorded 50,000 pubs in the UK; in 2018, there are 39,000.

However, despite the loss of more than 11,000 pubs in 10 years, there are currently 6% more jobs in pubs than there were in 2008. This increase is even more significant in rural pubs, which have seen a 17% improvement in employment rates.

According to the report, pubs may be hiring more staff due to an increased focus on serving food in addition to drinks, which requires more hands on deck in the kitchen and in front of house.

 A shift in the landscape

The ONS research also highlighted a shift from small pubs to larger bars across businesses of all sizes, from independent locals, to regional pub chains, to nationwide pubcos.

Small pubs with fewer than 10 employees have faced the most closures. Meanwhile, the number of large pubs with 25 or more employees is growing.

Areas on the edges of big cities have felt the closures of pubs most severely, said the ONS. Barking, Dagenham, Newham and Luton have seen their pub numbers dwindle to fewer than half what they were in 2001.

The Welsh borough of Torfaen, the region south of Glasgow and all of Northern Ireland have also suffered large numbers of closures since 2001.

The areas that have been able to maintain or strengthen their presence are those that benefit from tourism – the Scottish highlands, Ceredigion in West Wales, South Lakeland and Brighton, as well as cities such as Newcastle, Milton Keynes, York and the London borough of Hackney.

But even in this changing pub landscape, the UK’s pubs have sustained steady turnover totals since 2008, considering inflation. Masses of pubs have closed, but other pubs and bars have stepped in to serve their customers.

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