Jobless claims in Wigan soar due to Covid-19

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The number of people claiming unemployment benefits has rocketed by thousands in Wigan compared to the start of the Covid-19 crisis, new figures reveal.

Anti-poverty charity the Joseph Rowntree Foundation says the Government must act quickly to stop a wave of unemployment across the UK, including by extending increased help for benefits claimants.

Office for National Statistics data shows 14,335 people were claiming out-of-work benefits in Wigan as of September 10, compared to just 7,975 in early March.

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That’s seven per cent of the working-age population, up from 3.9.

The coronavirus pandemic has had a massive impact in WiganThe coronavirus pandemic has had a massive impact in Wigan
The coronavirus pandemic has had a massive impact in Wigan

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.

Despite still being much higher than pre-crisis levels, the number getting help in Wigan was lower than at the start of August, when there were 14,610 claimants.

But national figures, which were adjusted to account for seasonal changes, show the claimant count rose by one per cent to 2.7 million in September compared to the previous month. It was also more than double the number recorded in March.

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The ONS cautioned that changes to Universal Credit in response to the virus mean more people could get the benefits while still being employed, which could affect the figures.

Separate ONS data shows UK unemployment rose by 138,000 to 1.52 million in the three months to August compared to the previous quarter – the highest since the start of 2017.

This saw the rate of unemployment jump to 4.5 per cent, from 4.1 in the previous three months. To be counted as unemployed, workers need to be actively looking for a new job.

Redundancies also rose by a record 114,000 quarter-on-quarter to 227,000.

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Rebecca McDonald, senior economist at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said the figures were “a stark reminder that this crisis still has a long way to run”.

She added: “This is not the time for half measures. The Government can still act quickly and decisively to prevent a wave of unemployment that will hit the poorest hardest.”

Ms McDonald said the £20 per week increase to Universal Credit – introduced in April – should be made permanent.

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