BURNLEY is one of the ten large towns or cities expected to be hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic in the long term.

And Blackburn is in the top half of the 62 major UK settlements for jobs at risk from the Covid-19 crisis.

Senior politicians in the two towns predict ‘very difficult times ahead’ and a long haul back to normality,

The warnings come in a new report by the Centre for Cities which ranks the 62 largest urban areas by long-term job vulnerability.

Burnley is ranked 10th and Blackburn 24th with Blackpool at fifth and Preston 54th.

Greater Manchester is ranked 17th and Liverpool 26th.

The report ‘What does the COVID-19 crisis mean for the economies of British cities and large towns?’ warns that aerospace, on which Burnley is heavily dependent, is a major area of long-term vulnerability.

Blackburn with Darwen growth boss Cllr Phil Riley said: “There are going to be some very difficult times ahead for businesses as a result of this once-in-a-hundred-years pandemic.

“Once we understand how the government plans to change the lockdown arrangements and restart some economic activity, we can then analyse the specific issues facing the borough.”

Cllr Charlie Briggs, leader of Burnley Council, said: “The report identifies a number of sectors that are highly vulnerable - retail, aviation and automotive.

“Across East Lancashire there is a high concentration of employment across these sectors.

“Businesses in the aerospace and automotive sectors operate in complex global supply chains and it is likely that travel, particularly aviation, will take some time to return to normal and this ultimately has an impact on demand for parts and services.”

The report warns: “Every city has at least one-in-five jobs classified as either vulnerable or very vulnerable.

“This is because of the impact of the government’s lockdown restrictions on local services’ businesses, such as retailers, restaurants and hairdressers.

“These businesses can be found across cities, whether greasy spoons or a restaurant in the Ritz, and the impact is uniform – many have had to temporarily close. Jobs in these businesses make up two-thirds of all jobs estimated to be vulnerable.

“Vulnerability means the risk of laying-off workers permanently."