Leeds is the largest city in the county of West Yorkshire in Northern England, approximately 170 miles (270 km) north of central London. Leeds 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. Leeds is served by five universities, and has the fourth largest student population in the country and the country’s fourth largest urban economy.
Leeds was a small manorial borough in the 13th century, and in the 17th and 18th centuries it became a major centre for the production and trading of wool, and in the Industrial Revolution a major mill town; 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 United Kingdom’s fourth-most populous urban area, with a population of 2.6 million.