The number of unemployed across Kent and Medway is on the rise as economic uncertainty takes its toll on the jobs market.
Across the county, the number of those claiming benefits rose from 37,845 in February to 38,410 in the confirmed figures for March. That’s a rise of 565, according to the figures released today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
And while the April figures are still subject to adjustment, they suggest a significan leap upwards.
It comes as employers continue to tighten their belts amid soaring inflation, while consumers continue to see their budgets hit by the cost-of-living crisis. The uncertain times mean employers press pause on recruiting.
Nationally, vacancy rates – which had reached record highs – are now at their lowest for 18 months.
There were increases to those joining unemployment queues across the majority of the county’s districts. Only Swale saw a decrease while Sevenoaks and Folkestone and Hythe remained unchanged month-on-month.
Thanet remains the area with the highest proportion of unemployed at 6.6%. Dover and Gravesham are next at 4.8%, followed by Folkestone and Hythe (4.5%).
The lowest levels continue to be in the west of the county with Sevenoaks at 2.5%, Tonbridge and Malling 2.6% and Tunbridge Wells at 2.7%.
Nationally, the rate of UK unemployment rose to 3.9% in the three months to March, up from 3.8% in the previous quarter. The increase was not predicted – with economists anticipating the figures remaining the same.
The ONS said this reflects “uncertainty across industries, as survey respondents continue to cite economic pressures as a factor in holding back on recruitment”.
Another notable finding in the figures was that the number of people not looking for work due to long-term sickness hit a record high.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said: “It’s encouraging that the unemployment rate remains historically low but difficulty in finding staff and rising prices are a worry for many families and businesses.
“That's why we must stick to our plan to halve inflation and help families with the cost of living, while delivering our childcare reforms and supporting older people and disabled people who want to work."