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Unemployment Kent: Huge increase in claimants in February

By Chris Price

Jobcentres in the county recorded a huge rise in the number of people on unemployment benefits last month.

There were 895 more people on either jobseeker's allowance or universal credit across Kent in February, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Every district recorded an increase, taking the county's total claimant count to 21,410.

The number of people on unemployment benefits grew by nearly 900 across Kent
The number of people on unemployment benefits grew by nearly 900 across Kent

Statisticians have blamed some of the rise on the introduction of universal credit, which pays some people still in work, but there are indications that Kent's employment market is suffering.

Thanet, which brought in the complete service in July, experienced the county's largest rise, up 215 to 3,675, while Dover, where it came into force in May, recorded an increase of 120 to 2,130.

However the third largest increase came in Medway, up 105 to 3,465, where full universal credit is not due to be adopted until May.

Also yet to rollout the new benefit are Shepway, up 80 to 1,595, Gravesham, up 70 to 1,445, Canterbury, up 60 to 1,470, Maidstone, up 60 to 1,325 and Dartford, up 45 to 820.

Swale, which has adopted the service, was up 70 to 2,100.

Kent's claimant count has gone up for five straight months
Kent's claimant count has gone up for five straight months

David Crumley, partnership manager for Ashford, Folkestone and Dover Jobcentres, said: "There is a possibility there is still a seasonal element.

"Looking purely at the jobseeker's allowance claimants, the increases are similar to what they were this time last year.

"Within places like Medway we see the imminent closure of places like Toys R Us and Maplin.

"Across Kent as a whole our belief is that the labour market remains buoyant.

"At Dover we have recruitment for the St James' retail park and a lot of logistics vacancies at the port.

"In Ashford there are opportunities arising from the retail outlet centre expanding and a major supermarket is recruiting."

Unemployment grew across the South East, with the number of people out of work up 14,000 to 159,000 in the three months to January, defying the usual uplift created by festive work.

The region's unemployment rate stood at 3.3%, up from 3% the previous quarter.

In Kent, the largest rise demographically was among 25-49 year olds, with an increase of 410 to 10,730.

Nationally, the number of unemployed people increased by 24,000 to 1.45 million in the three months to January.

The unemployment rate remained at 4.3%.

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