Leeds is the largest city in the county of West Yorkshire in Northern England, approximately 170 miles (270 km) north of central London. It has one of the most diverse economies of all the UK's main employment centres and has seen the fastest rate of private-sector jobs growth of any UK city. It also has the highest ratio of private to public sector jobs of all the UK's Core Cities, with 77% of its workforce working in the private sector. Leeds has the third-largest jobs total by local authority area, with 480,000 in employment and self-employment at the beginning of 2015. Leeds is ranked as a "High Sufficiency" level city by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network. Leeds is the cultural, financial and commercial heart of the West Yorkshire Urban Area. The city is served by five universities, has the UK's fourth-largest student population and the country's fourth-largest urban economy.
Leeds was a small manorial borough in the 13th century, becoming a major centre for the production and trading of wool in the 17th and 18th centuries, then a major mill town during the Industrial Revolution; wool was still the dominant industry, but flax, engineering, iron foundries, printing, and other industries were also important. From being a market town in the valley of the River Aire in the 16th century, Leeds expanded and absorbed the surrounding villages to become a populous urban centre by the mid-20th century. It now lies within the West Yorkshire Urban Area, the UK's fourth-most populous urban area, with a reported population of 2.6 million in 2013.
Today, Leeds has become the largest legal and financial centre outside London with the financial and insurance services industry worth £13 billion to the city's economy. The finance and business service sector account for 38% of total output with more than 30 national and international banks located in the city, including an office of the Bank of England. Leeds is also the UK's third-largest manufacturing centre with around 1,800 firms and 39,000 employees; Leeds manufacturing firms account for 8.8% of total employment in the city and is worth over £7 billion to the local economy. The largest sub-sectors are engineering, printing and publishing, food and drink, chemicals and medical technology. Other key sectors include retail, leisure and the visitor economy, construction, and the creative and digital industries. The city saw several firsts, including the oldest-surviving film in existence, Roundhay Garden Scene (1888), and the 1767 invention of soda water.
Public transport, rail and road communications networks in the region are focused on Leeds; the second phase of High Speed 2 will connect it to London via East Midlands Hub and Sheffield. Leeds currently has the third busiest railway station and the tenth busiest airport outside London. Leeds has a less extensive public transport coverage than other UK cities of comparable size, and is the largest city in Europe without any form of light rail or underground system.
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