Thousands more people in Wigan were claiming unemployment benefits last month

Thousands more people in Wigan were claiming unemployment benefits last month than a year previously, figures reveal.

Thousands more unemployed
Thousands more unemployed

Office for National Statistics data show 13,645 people were claiming out-of-work benefits as of mid-February, up from 13,110 in January.

It was also nearly double the 7,765 claimants recorded a year previously.

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It means that 6.7 per cent of Wigan’s working-age population sought support in February – which was up from 3.8 per cent only 12 months earlier.

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 last month were among roughly 324,815 across the North West.

National figures, which are adjusted to account for seasonal changes, show around 2.7 million people across the UK were seeking help in February – up from 2.6 million in January, and the highest number since comparable records began in 2008.

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

It also said a small number of people who can claim both JSA and UC could be counted twice.

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The Centre for Cities said the furlough scheme has helped prevent even sharper rises in the number of claimants.

Elena Magrini, senior analyst at the think tank, added: “It is already clear that the labour market today is in a much worse position than it was a year ago. The full extent of the damage will now depend on how quickly we will be able to exit this health crisis and on the timing of the withdrawal of the Government’s support for businesses and workers.”

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Separate ONS figures show the UK’s jobless rate has begun falling for the first time since the pandemic struck, despite the most recent lockdown shutting large parts of the economy.

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