The contribution of the hospitality industry to the British economy has grown more quickly than that of any other sector since the 2008 downturn and looks set to create another 500,000 jobs over the next five years, writes The Times.

According to data from Ignite Economics, hospitality is Britain’s fourth largest employer, accounting for 3.2 million direct jobs and a further 2.8 million indirect jobs.

The research, commissioned by the British Hospitality Association, the industry trade body, says that the jobs are spread around the country, with hospitality ranking as a top six employer in every region of the UK.

Hospitality’s gross value added — the increase in economic value from the production of goods and services — of 5.9% is almost double that of the economy as a whole.

Labour productivity in the sector has grown at more than double the rate of the overall economy since 2008, the data shows. The industry GVA of 3.2% per hour worked compares with 1.5% for the wider economy.

While the sector’s growth outlook remains uncertain, Ignite calculates that in the best case it would create an 518,000 more jobs by 2021 than under a worst-case scenario.

Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the BHA, told The Times that the research confirmed “the colossal value of hospitality and tourism to the economy and wellbeing of the country”. However, it also showed that the growth outlook was “highly uncertain, given the pressures of falling real living standards, the costs of implementing the national living wage, increases in business rates and the potential lack of labour following exit from the EU”.