Published: 09:57, 23 February 2021
| Updated: 15:53, 23 February 2021
The number of people claiming benefits dropped in all districts across Kent and Medway in January, according to the latest figures.
However, the brief respite disguises the huge difference in unemployment numbers year-on-year.
Across Kent and Medway in December 68,815 claimed benefits compared to 66,950 last month - a drop of 2.7%.
But compare that with January last year when just 35,045 made claims. That represents, year-on-year, a staggering rise of 91% and underlines the impact of the pandemic.
The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics for the coming months will be keenly monitored as the furlough scheme draws to a close - although it may be extended during Chancellor Rishi Sunak's Budget, due to be delivered next Wednesday, March 3.
Medway has the highest unemployment figures for January of 11,525 - representing 6.6% of its population. It fell from 11,825 in December.
But it is Thanet where the highest proportion of its population are unemployed with the figures for January standing at 7,965 - down from 8,285 the month before - but still representing 9.8% of the district. That's almost one in 10 people making claims.
Folkestone and Hythe (4,785 claims) and Gravesham (4,735) are hot on its heels with both seeing 7.2% of their populations on benefits.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the districts in the west of the county have the smallest rates with just 4% of Tonbridge's residents (3,190) making claims - the same percentage at Sevenoaks (2,790) and only just below the 4.3% in Tunbridge Wells (3,070).
Ashford had 4,525 claims, down from 4.640 last month (representing 5.8% of its population making claims); Canterbury saw a drop from 5,185 to 5,080 (4.8%); Dartford 3,865 from 3,945 (5.4%); Dover 4,480 from 4,635 (6.4%); Maidstone had 5,155 claims (4.9%) down from 5,260; and Swale saw figures fall from 5,955 in December to 5,825 to January or 6.4% of its population.
Jo James, chief executive of the Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce said yesterday of the PM's path out of lockdown: "It is helpful that many businesses across Kent can now see a path to restart and recovery.
"Absolute clarity and honesty will be needed every step of the way over the weeks ahead, so that businesses have a fighting chance to rebuild. The stop-start dynamic of the past year, which has so damaged businesses and communities, must come to an end.
"Even with the Prime Minister’s new roadmap, the future of thousands of firms and millions of jobs across the UK still hang by a thread."