York's economy is based on the service industry, which in 2000 was responsible for 88.7% of employment in the city. The service industries in York include public sector employment, health, education, finance, information technology (IT) and tourism that accounts for 10.7% of employment. Tourism has become an important element of the local economy, with the city offering a wealth of historic attractions, of which York Minster is the most prominent, as well as a variety of cultural activities. In 2009, York was the 7th most visited city by UK residents and the 13th most visited by overseas visitors.
Unemployment in York is low at 4.2% in 2008 compared to the United Kingdom national average of 5.3%. The biggest employer in York is the City of York Council, with over 7,500 employees. Employers with more than 3,000 staff include Aviva (formerly Norwich Union Life), Selby and York Primary Care Trust, Shepherd Building Group (including Portakabin), and University of York. Other major employers include British Telecom, CPP Group (life assistance products), Nestlé, NFU Mutual and a number of railway companies.
Today's economic position is very different from the position of the economy as recently as the 1950s, when York's prosperity was based on chocolate manufacturing and the railways. This position continued until the early 1980s when 30% of the workforce were employed by just five employers and 75% of manufacturing jobs were in four companies. Most of the industry around the railway has gone, including the carriage works (known as Asea Brown Boveri or ABB at the time of closure) which at its height in 1880s employed 5,500 people, but, closed in the mid 1990s. York is the headquarters of the confectionery manufacturer Nestlé York (formerly Nestlé Rowntrees), and home to the KitKat and eponymous Yorkie bar chocolate brands. Terry's chocolate factory, makers of the Chocolate Orange, was also located in the city; but it closed on 30 September 2005, when production was moved by its owners, Kraft Foods, to Poland. However, the historic factory building can still be seen, situated next to the Knavesmire racecourse.
It was announced on 20 September 2006 that Nestlé would be cutting 645 jobs at the Rowntree's chocolate factory in York. This came after a number of other job losses in the city at Aviva, British Sugar and Terry's chocolate factory. Despite this, the employment situation in York remained fairly buoyant until the effects of the late 2000s recession began to be felt.
Since the closure of York's carriage-works, the site has been developed into the headquarters for CPP Group and two housing schemes, one of which was a self-build project. York's economy has been developing in the areas of science, technology and the creative industries. The city has become a founding National Science City with the creation of a science park near the University of York. Between 1998 and 2008 York gained 80 new technology companies and 2,800 new jobs in the sector.
Regional gross value added figures for York, at 2005 basic prices in pounds sterling, are:
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