Published: 10:00, 24 January 2018
| Updated: 10:00, 24 January 2018
More people claimed unemployment benefits in Kent last month as more Jobcentres began offering full universal credit.
There were 19,750 claimants of either jobseeker’s allowance or the government’s flagship new welfare policy in December, an increase of 365 according to the Office for National Statistics.
Universal credit pays many people who are in work to help them manage the change over from receiving benefits to a wage.
Thanet, which began offering the full version of the new benefit in September, recorded the largest rise in its claimant count, up 185 to 3,290.
However, Shepway, where the full roll out is not due until May, experienced Kent’s second highest increase, growing by 90 to 1,450.
Other areas without full universal credit which had significant rises were Ashford, up 55 to 1,290, and Canterbury, up 40 to 1,345.
Dover, where the complete service came into force in May, experienced a rise of 45 to 1,925, although Swale, where it began in December, recorded a fall of 45 to 1,960.
The figures show a fall in the number of claimants aged 16 to 24 across the county, down 100 to 4,220, at a time when many young people will have taken temporary retail jobs over the festive period.
Folkestone Jobcentre customer services manager Kevin Bish said: “We had some big redundancies like at Stones in Ashford but it is not unusual for us to see an increase at this time.
“Universal credit only just began in Swale and I would expect next month’s figures to show an increase in claimant numbers.
“However, employment in Kent is very good. We have a very buoyant market, with the St James’ retail development in Dover, the harbour bringing opportunities in Folkestone and the expansion of Ashford Designer Outlet.”
In the three months to November, there were 145,000 people out-of-work in the South East, down by 13,000.
"We have a very buoyant employment market, with the St James’ retail development in Dover, the harbour bringing opportunities in Folkestone and the expansion of Ashford Designer Outlet..." - Kevin Bish, Folkestone Jobcentre
The number of people with a job grew by 54,000 to 4.65 million.
The South East had the lowest unemployment rate in the UK at 3% and the highest employment rate at 80.1%.
Nationally, the number of people out of work remained largely unchanged at 1.44 million and the unemployment rate remained at 4.3%, where it has been since August, its joint lowest since 1975.
Latest estimates show average weekly earnings increased by 2.4% excluding bonuses, compared with a year earlier.
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