The table below was taken from data provided by the Office for National Statistics and shows the number of jobs split between Manufacturing (including Construction) [Orange line] and Services [Blue line] between 1978 and 2019 taking each quarterly return.
Service sector jobs increased by 11 million and manufacturing reduced by 4.5 million.
Looking at services the biggest increases were Health and social care 2.3 million, IT and Management Services 1.3 million and Accommodation, food and beverage 1.2 million and education 1 million.
In his book, Social History of Britain – British Society 1914-45, John Stevenson offers some broadly comparative statistics.
In 1914, textiles, coal, iron and steel, and shipbuilding employed almost a quarter of the total workforce. The comparative percentages for 1978 and 2019 are 14% and 2% respectively. The ‘new’ industries of motor vehicles, plastics and electrics rebuilt manufacturing jobs between the wars and, in the fifties and sixties, making up 11% of total jobs in 1978. They make up 3% in 2019.
If we go back further, David Canadine in his book, Victorious Century, offers again broadly comparable figures. Agriculture came first with just under 2 million, followed by 1million in domestic service. Next came cotton textile workers at half a million; whilst this number was equally split between men and women, men predominated in agriculture and women in domestic service. Next in number came building craftsmen, labourers and then a third of a million milliners, dressmakers and seamstresses, and 300,000 wool workers. There were 200,000 coalminers. Instead of listing the remainder, Canadine observes that there were more blacksmiths than iron workers and more working with horses on roads than with steam on railways. The total employed workforce in 1851 was 8.5 million (out of a total population of 27 million) compared to 31 million in 2019.
I look forward to getting access to hard copy of the Censuses to assess more clearly how employment patterns have changed.
These huge changes are, in a good part, why I am researching this whole area.
My research on the period up to the Festival of Britain in 1951 has been published in How Britain Shaped the Manufacturing World. The period post 1951 is the object of my work in progress.