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Unemployment dropped across Kent in October

Additional reporting by Ciaran Duggan

The number of people claiming unemployment benefits dropped in every area of Kent last month.

October saw unemployment drop by 1,805 to 68,665 - however, it does not reduce the massive spike in the amount people who lost jobs and signed on to claim benefits at the beginning of the first lockdown.

The number of people claiming unemployment benefits has dropped
The number of people claiming unemployment benefits has dropped

Medway saw the largest drop with 260 fewer people on unemployment benefits. Though, the unitary authority still has the most people without a job in the county with 11,755 claiming benefits.

Other areas which saw a similar drop included Thanet, down by 215, and Maidstone, down by 200.

The area with the smallest decrease was Gravesham with 45 fewer claims last month.

However, the decrease albeit good news, is only 2.6% drop across Kent as there was a massive rise in unemployment following lockdown in March.

Before the pandemic, 2,000 fewer people claiming benefits would have accounted for a drop of around 6% in unemployment.

Jobless figures for October
Jobless figures for October

Universal credit claims have almost trebled across Kent due to the pandemic.

Kent County Council's (KCC) economic development cabinet member, Cllr Mike Whiting (Con), said the effects of two national lockdowns were "likely to be long lasting" as the county faces three more weeks of tight restrictions.

He added: “Some sectors were hit much harder in the first lockdown. Hospitality contracted by 72% and that loss won’t be recovered. Despite the introduction of furlough, the universal credit count has almost trebled since March, although this remains slightly lower than the national rate."

A KCC-led action plan has been created to reduce the impact of the pandemuc's financial devastation on the county, which saw Kent's economic output drop by £2.3billion from March to May.

The unemployment rate has particularly affected Kent's young people. The number of people out of work who are aged between 18 to 24 has risen from 6,895 in March to almost 15,000 in September.

Some sectors were hit much harder in the first lockdown. Hospitality contracted by 72%. Picture: Canterbury City Council
Some sectors were hit much harder in the first lockdown. Hospitality contracted by 72%. Picture: Canterbury City Council

Meanwhile, the number of women unemployed in the county has grown from 14,035 to 29,555 over the same six-month period while the number of men out of work has also increased from 18,875 to 42,530.

The £4bn tourism economy has also been affected. There has been a decline in the use of public transport as more people worked from home. Eurostar has withdrawn trains from Ashford and Ebbsfleet until 2022.

Support packages put in place across the county include business rate relief and the government's furlough scheme, which has been extended until the end of March.

In addition, Whitehall has pledged to invest in Kent infrastructure projects amid Covid, including £12m for Thanet Parkway, £2.3m for better rural broadband in the county and £3.5m towards the Romney Marsh employment hub.

Meanwhile, a localised employment taskforce is being set up to kickstart new work placements and apprenticeships.

Cllr Roger Gough, Kent County Council's leader
Cllr Roger Gough, Kent County Council's leader

KCC's leader Cllr Roger Gough (Con), who chairs the group, has drawn upon the expertise of schools, universities, MPs and the Department for Work and Pensions to drive future demand for jobs in the county.

Cllr Gough said the employment taskforce was "particularly critical" in stimulating the local labour market.

However, KCC's Labour group leader Dara Farrell said he wanted to see more "concrete" proposals and expressed his frustration about jobs "falling through the cracks" due to the uncertain future of the furlough scheme in October.

He said: "Employers have had to make people redundant when some of them could have stayed on."

There are a number of reasons why claims go up or down and the Office of National Statistics, says the slow introduction of Universal Credit - the new benefits system which rolls all payments into one - has had an impact on numbers.

A spokesman said: "Under Universal Credit, a broader span of claimants are required to look for work than under jobseeker's allowance. As full service is rolled out in particular areas, the number of people recorded as being on the claimant count is therefore likely to rise."

To read more about September's unemployment figures, click here.

Read more: All the latest news from Kent

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