Virus sparks big rise in jobless benefits

Benefit claims are on the riseBenefit claims are on the rise
Benefit claims are on the rise
More than one in twenty of working age people in Northumberland were claiming unemployment benefits at the end of last year because of the coronavirus crisis, according to new figures.

Office for National Statistics data shows 5.8% of the area's working-age population were claiming out-of-work benefits as of December 10 – up from 3.6% in March.

The figures show 11,000 people were claiming out-of-work benefits in December, compared to 6,790 before the pandemic struck – an increase of 4,210.

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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.

Those on benefits at the end of 2020 were among roughly 118,000 across the North East.

National figures show around 2.64 million people were seeking help at the start of December – up from 1.24 million in March.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “This crisis has gone on far longer than any of us hoped – and every job lost is a tragedy.

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“Whilst the NHS is working hard to protect people with the vaccine, we’re throwing everything we’ve got at supporting businesses, individuals and families.”

The figures came as new research warned 2.5 million jobs are in jeopardy due to businesses at risk of going bust in the coming months.

The report by the Centre for Economic Performance and the Alliance for Full Employment says more than 900,000 firms could go bankrupt as many support programmes expire at the end of March and April.