One in 17 claim jobless benefits in Northumberland

Benefits claims still highBenefits claims still high
Benefits claims still high
One in 17 of Northumberland’s working-age population were claiming unemployment benefits last month, according to new figures.

Office for National Statistics data shows 10,970 people were claiming out-of-work benefits as of mid-January – slightly down from 11,000 in December – compared to 6,790 in early March when the coronavirus crisis started.

The January figure means 5.8% of the area's working-age population sought support in January – up from 3.6% nine months earlier.

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Those on benefits last month were among roughly 117,000 across the North East.

The figures include those aged 16 to 64 on Jobseeker’s Allowance and some Universal Credit claimants, who are unemployed and seeking work or employed but with low earnings.

National figures, which are adjusted to account for seasonal changes, show around 2.6 million people were seeking help towards the beginning of the year – down slightly from 2.62 million in December, but well up from 1.24 million in March 2020.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has pledged job support plans in the Budget next week but Rebecca McDonald, senior economist at anti-poverty charity the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), said the figures are a reminder that "the journey to economic recovery will be long".

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She said: "Unemployment is high and millions are already relying on Universal Credit to keep their heads above water.

"That number will only grow as furlough is unwound and unemployment peaks later this year."

The JRF is urging Mr Sunak to "reflect" on the temporary £20 weekly rise in Universal Credit.

Ms McDonald said cutting the support as unemployment is predicted to surge "would pull hundreds of thousands into poverty".