The number of people claiming UK unemployment benefits increased to 2.1 million in April 2020, a monthly rise of 856,500 and the highest level since 1996.
The figures, released this morning by the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP), show that the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance or searching for work under Universal Credit rules increased by 69.1 per cent over the month. This is the largest jump the DWP has ever recorded.
Rural and tourist areas have been hardest hit. Claims are triple or quadruple what they were a year ago in some parts of Cumbria, Devon and Snowdonia.
The region with the largest rise in claims was the south-west, where the numbers almost doubled. Meanwhile, the West Midlands saw the smallest increase, of 50.9 per cent.
A breakdown of the figures by parliamentary constituency showed the claimant count stood at 1,690 in Westmorland and Lonsdale in Cumbria, more than quadruple the figure in April last year.
East Devon was up 265 per cent, Dwyfor Meirionnydd in Snowdonia was up 259 per cent and Central Devon rose 249 per cent on a year-on-year basis.
Around 1.5 million people claimed Universal Credit between 13 March and 9 April alone, over six times more than last year.
This figure doesn’t reflect just unemployment: some self-employed and furloughed employees can also claim Universal Credit.
Hiring has also suffered from the coronavirus lockdown. The number of vacancies available has gone from around 865,000 in April 2019 to only 351,000 this year, meaning those without a job will find it even more difficult to find work.