Published: 09:25, 12 April 2022
| Updated: 15:18, 12 April 2022
Unemployment figures across all districts in the county fell last month - but pressure on household budgets is intensifying as UK workers suffered their biggest fall in real pay for nearly nine years.
The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics reveal that while the number of people claiming Universal Credit in Kent is falling again compared to last month's first increase for a year, pay rises for those in work are not keeping track with soaring inflation.
And that means less money in our pockets at the end of every month.
According to the figures for March, those claiming benefits across Kent and Medway fell 2.4% to 44,790 compared to last month's adjusted figures. The county has an unemployment rate of 4% - which is broadly in line with the national average.
But, nationwide, regular pay, excluding bonuses, fell 1.8% over the three months to February when taking into account rising inflation.
The figures come amid forecasts that inflation, already at 6.2%, will peak at nearly 9% this autumn. That's the average hike in the price of goods and services we use compared to the same period last year.
Across Kent, the biggest falls in those claiming Universal Credit were in Tonbridge which saw a drop of 3.4%, while Thanet, Dover and Maidstone all fell by 3.3%.
The impact of the loss of jobs in and around Dover through the loss of almost 800 jobs at P&O are likely to be reflected in the figures for April.
The areas in Kent with the highest rate of unemployment remains Thanet at 6.9%. The lowest rates remain in the west of the county with Sevenoaks and Tonbridge & Malling at 2.3% and Tunbridge Wells at 2.6%.
Nationally, a shrinking labour market, due mostly to older workers choosing to retire early throughout the pandemic, has also seen those classed as economically inactive rise by 76,000 in the quarter to 8.9million.
Darren Morgan, director of economic statistics at the ONS, said: “While unemployment has fallen again, we are still seeing rising numbers of people disengaging from the labour market, and as they aren’t working or looking for work, are not counted as unemployed.
“Early estimates suggest there was only a small increase in the number of employees on payroll in March, while job vacancies, although again at a record high, rose at their slowest for nearly a year.
“While strong bonuses continue to mitigate the effects of rising prices on people’s total earnings, basic pay is now falling noticeably in real terms.”