Claimant count by local authorities between February and August 2020
Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows the impact of the COVID-19 on the jobseeker claimant count which has increased by 117% since February 2020.
The headline statistic showing a 117% increase in jobseeker claimants masks huge variation across local authorities. The lowest increase was in Inverclyde (+46%) and the highest was in Surrey Heath (+296%).
Most strikingly, it is areas with low unemployment before the pandemic that appear to have seen the biggest rise in the claimant count. For example, Surrey Heath (+296), Hart (+279) and Woking (+266) saw claimants almost triple, albeit from a lower base.
The situation is likely to get worse, with the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) estimating that, in a best-case scenario, 10% of people on furlough will face job loss. The self-employment income support scheme is also set to end at the same time in October, and the Minimum Income Floor set to be reinstated in November 2020, affecting self-employed people. This is expected to push unemployment up to 10% (from 4.1% in July) an increase of 2.1m (to 3.4m).
The challenge for these councils is whether they can handle a surge in demand for support, with many claimants needing help for the first time, and how they themselves adapt to new working practices. Our work has found that the benefit system can be difficult to navigate, and councils can better cater for this with the right support.