Number of people in Leeds claiming unemployment benefits almost doubles in two months

The number of people in Leeds who are now having to claim unemployment benefits during the pandemic has nearly doubled compared to two months ago, new figures reveal.

By Joseph Keith
Sunday, 21st June 2020, 11:45 am
The number of people signing on in Leeds has risen. Picture: PA.
The number of people signing on in Leeds has risen. Picture: PA.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) data shows that 35,260 people were claiming out-of-work benefits in Leeds as of May 14, compared to just 18,185 in early March.

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.

It comes as the YEP is shining a light on data as part of our Your Right To Know campaign.

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The latest figures for May mean that the share of the population signing on rose from 3.5 per cent to 6.9 per cent.

Leeds's claimant rate was just above the 6.7 per cent across Yorkshire and the Humber as a whole.

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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 2.8 million 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.

Your Right To Know: Police explain why illegal weapon possession crimes have doubled in LeedsShadow 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, London, the figure shot up from 3.8 per cent to 10.1 per cent.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, the Shetland Islands in Scotland 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."