UK Today

Huge rise in number of people claiming benefits

The number of people claiming unemployment benefit in the UK soared to 2.1 million in April, the first full month of the coronavirus lockdown.

The total in April went up by 856,500, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

Separate ONS figures showed UK unemployment rose by 50,000 to 1.35 million in the three months to March.

The unemployment rate was estimated at 3.9%, slightly down on the previous quarter, the ONS said.

Before the lockdown began, employment had hit a record high.

The benefit claimant count does not include everyone who is out of work, since not everyone is entitled to claim assistance, but it does indicate the trend in the employment market.

According to research by the Resolution Foundation, young people are most likely to have lost work or seen their income drop because of the coronavirus pandemic.

More than one in three 18 to 24-year-olds is earning less than before the outbreak, the research indicated.

It said younger workers risk their pay being affected for years, while older staff may end up involuntarily retired.

Bigger rise due
The jobless figures only cover the first week of the lockdown and the total is likely to worsen sharply in the coming months.

Jagjit Chadha, director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, told the BBC: “We can reasonably expect unemployment to rise very quickly to something over 10% – something we haven’t seen since the early 1990s.”

People who are at home on furlough are not counted in the jobless total.

However, the total number of weekly hours worked showed its largest annual decrease in 10 years.

Estimates based on returns for individual weeks suggest that this fall was mostly caused by the decrease in hours in the last week of March, with a much smaller decrease in the previous week, the ONS said.

In the final week of March, the total number of hours worked was about 25% fewer than in other weeks within the quarter.

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