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Unemployment drops across Kent in April as 710 people come off benefits


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Unemployment did not rise in any area of Kent in April as businesses prepared to reopen.

Across the county claims have dropped by 710 from 69,115 in March to 68,405 in April, a 1% change.

Claims drop by 710 in April
Claims drop by 710 in April

This is a much bigger drop than in March when only 55 fewer people were counted.

Only two areas, Dartford and Maidstone, saw no change in the number of claims, while the remaining 11 saw claims drop.

The most significant decrease was seen in Canterbury were 105 fewer claims were counted.

This was closely followed by Tunbridge Wells, which saw 100 less people claiming benefits.

The least significant drop was seen in Sevenoaks where only five fewer claims were counted.

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Medway remains the area with the highest number of claims at 12,110 and Sevenoaks the least at 2,920.

However, Thanet has the highest rate of unemployment with 7.1% of the area's population claiming benefits, compared to Kent's average of 4.8%.

Tonbridge and Malling has the lowest rate of unemployment with 3.3% of the population claiming benefits.

Though this is good news, businesses have been warned the economy's recovery may be slower than expected.

Jo James, Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce chief executive, said: “The decline in economic output in the first quarter largely reflected the squeeze on activity from coronavirus restrictions, which was partly offset by growing business resilience to those restrictions and a monthly boost from the reopening of schools in March.

Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce chief executive, Jo James
Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce chief executive, Jo James

“The first quarter decline should be followed by a robust rebound in the second quarter as the effects of the release of pent-up demand, as restrictions ease and the strong vaccine rollout, are fully felt.

“However, with the longer-term economic damage caused by coronavirus likely to increasingly weigh on activity as government support winds down, the recovery maybe slower than many, including the Bank of England, currently predict.”

As restrictions eased yesterday allowing more indoor facilities like soft play centres, pubs and other hospitality to reopen, there is mixed feelings across the county following the pandemic's aftermath.

On one hand, a handful of businesses have found themselves benefiting from the pandemic, whether this is through offering lockdown related business advice, working on the refurbishment of the newly reopened High Streets or just taking the time during lockdown to level up their businesses.

More jobs are also becoming available as business expand with easing restrictions.

How the LOC8 site will look when complete. Picture: Clearbell
How the LOC8 site will look when complete. Picture: Clearbell

Amazon are set to hire 1,300 new workers in Kent when they open a new fulfilment centre in Dartford this August.

Pub giant, Shepherd Neame, are also planning to hire 300 more staff as they prepare for more excited customers to come rolling in for their first pint at a bar since December.

Hundreds of jobs are expected to be created later this year when Clearbell Property Partners launches their plans to build the LOC8 commercial park, located off Junction 8 of the the M20.

On the other hand, High Street's across Kent have been scarred by lockdowns.

In Maidstone, Fremlin Walk currently has 15 empty units and The Mall Shopping centre has 17 vacancies as shops close and swap with other retail favourites.

In Canterbury, more than 40 shops and eateries closed in last 12 months of pandemic, including Boho, Debenhams, Café Rouge and Canterbury Tales.

There is hope a £4.4 million business support and skills fund launched by South East Local Enterprise Partnership in the coming weeks will help the local economy and strengthen investment where it is needed most.

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