Thousands more people claim unemployment benefits in North Somerset

Thousands more people across North Somerset are claiming unemployment benefits.Picture: Dominic Lipi

Thousands more people across North Somerset are claiming unemployment benefits.Picture: Dominic Lipinski - Credit: PA

The number of people claiming unemployment benefits nearly doubled in the district in May compared with the month prior, figures reveal.

North Somerset Councillor Mark Canniford.Picture: MARK ATHERTON

North Somerset Councillor Mark Canniford.Picture: MARK ATHERTON - Credit: Archant

Office for National Statistics (ONS) data shows 5,100 people were claiming out-of-work benefits in North Somerset as of April 9, compared with just 2,610 the month prior.

It means the share of the population signing on rose from 2.1 per cent to 4.1 per cent, revealing the effects of the pandemic on the economy.

The statistics capture the early weeks of restrictions after Prime Minister Boris Johnson put the country in lockdown on March 23, meaning the numbers are likely to have risen since.

However, North Somerset’s claimant rate was still just below the 4.3 per cent across the South West as a whole.

The figures count those aged 16 to 64 who are on Jobseekers Allowance and some Universal Credit claimants, with numbers rounded to the nearest five.

North Somerset Council executive member for Business, Economy and Employment, Mark Canniford, said in regard to coronavirus we are ‘not out of the woods yet’.

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He said: “We are concerned about the unemployment rate in the district, but there are some great opportunities we need to take advantage of in regards to re-evaluating jobs and scope for more people to work from home.

“Right now, we need to be mindful about how we are going to help businesses going forward, and we know they need a considerable amount of help as a result of the pandemic.”

Across the UK, the claimant count rocketed to 2.1 million on April 9 – a 66 per cent rise from March, although the ONS put the increase at 69 per cent if the figures were adjusted to take seasonal variations into account.

The increase in the share of population seeking help varies around the country, as the Isles of Scilly figure shot up from 0.7 per cent to 5.8 percent, and Cambridge, South Cambridgeshire and Elmbridge saw their claimant count rise by just 0.9 percentage points.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “These are challenging times, but Universal Credit is providing a vital safety net to those affected by the pandemic and we have injected more than £6.5billion to support people using the welfare system in the country.”

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