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Unemployment claims rise by 26% in May as economic impact of lockdown felt


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Unemployment claims in Kent shot up by more than 15,000 last month.

May was the second full month of lockdown and the 22nd month in a row claims have risen in the county - with 72,925 people now on benefits.

Unemployment claims have risen by 26.9% this month
Unemployment claims have risen by 26.9% this month

The increase was 26.7% but that was still less dramatic than the previous month – in April 24,495 began signing on while last month that figure was 15,370.

By contrast between February and March, claims only rose by 325.

Medway saw the largest rise with 3,105 new claims last month.

Of Kent's 13 districts, seven saw their claims increase by more than 1,000. The area which saw the lowest number of claims was Dover with 530.

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Men make up 10,065 of the new claims and women just 5,300.

Jo James, chief executive of the Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce, says many of the people on universal credit at the moment are self employed or have been made redundant.

She added: "The furlough scheme was set up to stop redundancies. But when it ends it won't save everyone, as we are seeing now.

"Stores reopening does help the retail sector at the moment. But with social distancing in place it can't be business as usual. It is going to be a struggle to get the same turnover and businesses will look at their staffing. When the workload is not there, they will not need the staff.

"We have a very entrepreneurial business community in Kent and some will find their way as they are very innovative. But sadly this won't be the case for everyone."

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She also expressed her worry for the young people who make up a high proportion of the unemployed. Struggling to enter the workforce with little experience will become even harder when businesses are forced cut back on the number of apprentices they take 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 the number of people claiming unemployment benefits in April, click here.

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