South Tyneside unemployment claims up by more than half - with fears severity of crisis' impact on jobs still to be seen

The number of people claiming out-of-work benefits in South Tyneside jumped by more than half in the first two months of the coronavirus lockdown.

The latest figures show there were 8,850 people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance or unemployment Universal Credit in the borough in May, a rise of 455 on April and up by 3,060 – almost 53% – on March, when the lockdown began.

The North East employment rate was 73.9% for the three months to the end of April, compared to a rate of 76.4% nationally. Unemployment was 5.2% - a fall over the year, but still significantly higher than the national rate of 3.9%.

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Department of Work and Pensions spokesman Steve McCall said: “We have a lot more people on Universal Credit. Hopefully many will have started to return to work in the last week or two but for those unable to return for now or those who are unemployed, we are contacting them by phone or through their online journal.

The latest out-of-work benefits figures have been released

“I am seeing vacancies coming through in sectors such as care, pharmaceutical industry, school staff, drivers, security, cleaning, civil service, warehousing , call centre and construction.”

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Jonathan Walker, assistant director of policy with the North East England Chamber of Commerce, said the figures showed how big the challenge would be when lockdown was fully lifted: “The headline labour force statistics show that the regional economy was still in job creation mode right up to point when Covid-19 hit,” he said.

“These numbers do not yet fully show how severe the impact of the current crisis has been on our labour market.

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Jonathan Walker

“Government support such as the furlough scheme has helped but the fact that May’s claimant count is 77% higher than this time last year shows the scale of the challenge we are likely to face.

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“The North East continues to have the highest unemployment rate in the country. We know this crisis and any recession will be felt more strongly in regions such as ours. The promise of levelling up that brought the Government to power must be honoured in any economic recovery plans.”

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