Burnley sees one of sharpest spikes in unemployment benefit claims in region

Burnley has seen one of the sharpest spikes in people claiming unemployment benefits in the North-West, new figures reveal.

Thursday, 18th June 2020, 12:30 pm
Office for National Statistics data shows 4,800 people were claiming out-of-work benefits in Burnley as of May 14th

The Labour Party and charities are calling for more support to stop people being pulled into poverty by the Covid-19 pandemic, after the number of claims more than doubled since the UK went into lockdown.

Office for National Statistics data shows 4,800 people were claiming out-of-work benefits in Burnley as of May 14th, compared to just 2,910 in early March.

It means the share of the population signing on rose from 5.4% to 9.0% – among the biggest jumps in the North-West, where the claimant rate rose from 3.8% to 7.2%.

The ONS figures count those aged 16 to 64 who are on Jobseekers Allowance and some Universal Credit claimants, with numbers rounded to the nearest five.

Across the UK, the claimant count more than doubled to 2.7 million on May 14th, with separate ONS figures showing the figure stood at 2.8 million for the whole month – the highest since 1993.

The ONS cautioned that changes to Universal Credit in response to the virus mean more people could get unemployment-related benefits while still being employed, which could affect the figures.

Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds is calling for an urgent "back to work budget" to support jobs through the economic crisis brought about by the coronavirus.

She said: “The Government was too slow to recognise the scale of the health crisis from coronavirus and we are already paying the economic price.

“The window is closing to protect existing jobs and encourage firms to invest in creating new ones."

The ONS figures show the increase in the share of the population seeking help varied significantly around the country.

In Haringey, the figure shot up from 3.8% to 10.1%. At the other end of the spectrum, the Shetland Islands saw its claimant count rise by just 1.4 percentage points.

Anti-poverty charity the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said the Government should particularly focus on creating jobs in places that have seen the biggest increases in unemployment, and give people opportunities to gain new skills.

Dave Innes, head of economics at the foundation, said: "Alongside this, the Government should also boost benefits so that people are not pulled into poverty if they lose their jobs."

Asked on Sky News about possible measures in an emergency budget, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the priority was to drive the recovery by getting businesses open and people back to work.

He added: "We've got to look forward and we set out an ambitious agenda at budget as well about investing in our regions, making sure we drive growth and productivity through infrastructure investment."