Published: 09:18, 17 August 2021
| Updated: 09:19, 17 August 2021
The number of unemployed in the county continues to fall - but the figures are beginning to stabilise after a string of significant drops over recent months.
As the economy reopened following the national lockdowns, the number of those claiming benefits have dipped month-on-month since February.
But after June saw a dip of 6% compared to May, countywide, the latest figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveal the figure for July saw a decline of just 0.6%.
However, nationwide, job vacancies are soaring with a record 953,000 in the three months to July.
Claims were down across all of Kent's districts except for Dartford, Swale, Tonbridge & Malling and Tunbridge Wells - all of which saw only a slight rise.
The biggest drops were in Medway where the claimant figure dropped 110 people to 10,595 and Thanet where it fell by 70, to 6,940.
The two areas still have the highest number of unemployed. Medway's rate stand at 6.1% of the working population, while Thanet's is 8.6%.
The lowest percentage of claims are in the west Kent districts of Tunbridge Wells (3.6%), Tonbridge & Malling (3.4%) and Sevenoaks (3.3%).
Jo James, chief executive of the Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce, said: "Record vacancies confirm ongoing recruitment difficulties. Although the changes to self-isolation rules will help, with many firms facing a more deep-rooted squeeze on labour supply from the impact of Covid and Brexit, staff shortages may persistently weigh on economic activity.
“Although labour demand is currently robust, with firm’s finances still recovering from Covid and skills mismatches likely to limit the extent to which those seeking jobs after furlough can move into available roles, unemployment may still drift somewhat higher in the near term.
“Alongside rapid retraining opportunities, government should extend the Kickstart scheme into 2022 and expand it to enable older workers to gain new skills and experience. A more flexible immigration system is also needed to ensure that firms get access to the workers they need.”
The furlough scheme is due to end in September - prompting fears of a spike in jobless figures when the government support is withdrawn.
Speaking on the wider national figures, Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician for economic statistics at the ONS, said: “The world of work continues to rebound robustly from the effects of the pandemic.
“The number of people on payroll was up again strongly and has now grown over half a million in the past three months, regaining about four-fifths of the fall seen at the start of the pandemic.
“Meanwhile, early survey figures show that the number of job vacancies passed one million for the first time ever in July.
“There was no sign of redundancies starting to pick up in our survey data ahead of the furlough scheme beginning to wind down, and Insolvency Service figures for July suggest the same.”
In response to the figures, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “Today’s figures show that our plan for jobs is working – saving people’s jobs and getting people back into work.
“I know there could still be bumps in the road but the data is promising – there are now more employees on payrolls than at any point since March 2020 and the number of people on furlough is the lowest since the scheme launched.”