Thousands more people in Preston claiming unemployment benefits
Thousands more Preston residents are claiming unemployment benefits compared to two months ago, new figures reveal.
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 6,455 people were claiming out-of-work benefits in Preston as of May 14, compared to just 3,565 in early March.
It means the share of the population signing on rose from 3.9 per cent to seven per cent.
But Preston's claimant rate was still just below the 7.2 per cent across the North West as a whole.
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 14, with separate ONS figures showing the figure stood at 2.8m 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 per cent to 10.1 per cent. 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."