Unemployment Kent: More than 1,100 people started claiming benefits in January compared to December

More than 1,100 more people in the county are claiming unemployment benefits according to the latest figures.

The number of people on either jobseeker's allowance or universal credit in January has increased by 1,115 since December, according to the Office for National Statistics.

In December the number of people claiming in Kent was 24,225 but in January that has risen to 25,340.

The number of people on unemployment-related benefits has increased in Kent (7283276)
The number of people on unemployment-related benefits has increased in Kent (7283276)

Medway has the highest rise in claimants with 220 more people aged over 16 claiming benefits than in December.

The second highest increase was Maidstone with 145 people aged 16 and over signing on at the job centre.

Across the county, people aged 25 to 49 made up the majority of the overall rise, with 580 more claiming and 290 more people aged above 50 also started claims.

A total of 180 of people from this age group were men with 110 women claiming.

The number of people on unemployment-related benefits has increased in Kent
The number of people on unemployment-related benefits has increased in Kent

In the last year, since January 2018, almost 6,000 more people started claiming benefits because they are unemployed.

It comes as the government's controversial universal credit system came into full force across Kent last month, however, the Department of Work and Pensions, (DWP) is still moving all remaining existing benefit claimants to the universal credit full service and this work only started this month.

Under universal credit a broader span of claimants are required to look for work than under jobseeker's allowance.

However, one job expert says the figures are nothing to worry about and are due to the seasonal trend over the festive period.

The DWP is moving people onto universal credit
The DWP is moving people onto universal credit

Wayne Hodgson is group managing director from Red Eagle Recruitment Specialists, which has offices in Sittingbourne and Folkestone, Bexley and other parts of the country.

He said: "Current unemployment figures showing some increases across Kent are nothing to be concerned about.

"We see this as a seasonal trend and very confident unemployment will drop again in the coming months.

"If you look at the position of the UK as a whole it is very encouraging with the number of people in work now at a record high of 32.6 million, female unemployment now down below 4% for the first time and all this with reports of average earnings showing an increase of 3.4 % in the year to December, the highest for a decade, outpacing inflation - reported as 1.8 per cent last week."

Cllr Jane Chitty, Medway Council’s head of planning, economic growth and regulation, said: “We’re working closely with local businesses and the four universities in Medway to create more job opportunities and a skilled workforce.

“Innovation Park Medway is set to become our flagship business hub and is expected to create hundreds of new jobs. "The site at Rochester Airport will become a magnet for high value technology, engineering, manufacturing and knowledge intensive businesses which will employ skilled workers.

“Medway’s economy continues to grow and has strengthened to £5.17billion.

"There are now more than 14,000 businesses in Medway providing a variety of opportunities for local people.

“In addition to the courses offered by the universities and colleges, our own Medway Adult Education centres offer people the opportunity to gain qualifications to help their career prospects.

"The Employ Medway Advice Centre in Chatham also provides employment advice and support to residents. "Between August 2009 and September 2018, Employ Medway supported 2,150 long-term unemployed residents find work.

"The Work Programme alone has resulted in 15,946 months’ reduction in benefit payments with an estimated saving of £9.5million.

"We would encourage residents who are looking for work to contact the centre or visit Job Centre Plus in Chatham for advice on the opportunities available to them.”

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