Jobless benefit claims on the rise in Suffolk and north Essex despite record UK employment

Total unemployment in the UK has reached a record low, but jobless benefit claims are on the increas

Total unemployment in the UK has reached a record low, but jobless benefit claims are on the increase. Picture: Gareth Fuller/PA Archive - Credit: PA

Unemployment-related benefit claims edged higher in many parts of Suffolk and north Essex last month – despite the UK-wide jobless total hitting a 42-year low.

Total unemployment in the quarter to March fell by 53,000 to 1.54m, the lowest since the summer of 1975, while the number of people in work grew by 122,000 to nearly 32m, the highest since records began in 1971.

However, the figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) also show that the narrower count of those eligible to claim benefit – either the Jobseeker’s Allowance or the unemployment-related element of the new Universal Credit – grew in April by 19,400 to 792,800.

Most parts of Suffolk followed this trend, with the biggest increase seen in Waveney where the claimant count rose by 75 compared with March to 2,340 and the unemployment rate by 0.2 to 3.6%.

The local jobless rates grew by 0.1 in Ipswich, where the count rose by 55 to 1,915 (a rate of 2.2%), and St Edmudsbury, up 25 to 785 (1.2%), while a smaller increase in Forest Heath, up 15 to 365, left the rate unchanged (0.9%).

Rates were also unchanged in Babergh, where the count fell by 10 to 440 (0.9%), Suffolk Coastal, down 15 to 510 (0.7%), and Mid Suffolk, unchanged at 500 (0.8%),

In north and mid Essex, rates remained unchanged throughout, despite most areas seeing small increases in the claimant count.

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This included Braintree, up 15 to 1,035 (1.1%), Chelmsford, also up 15 to 1,275 (1.2%), Colchester, up 25 to 1,425 (also 1.2%), and Uttlesford, up 15 to 260 (0.5%).

In Tendring, however, the count fell by 20 to 2,230 (a rate of 2.9%), and in Maldon the figure was unchanged at 385 (1.0%).

Today’s data from the ONS also shows that the number of job vacancies in the UK reached a record high of 777,000 after a 22,000 increase in the quarter to March.

However, self-employment also continued to increase, rising by 82,000 to a near record 4.78m, representing 15% of all people in work.

The number of people classed as economically inactive, which includes people looking after a relative, on sick leave or who have given up looking for a job, fell by 40,000 during quarter to 8.8m, the lowest for a year, with the rate of inactivity among 16- to 64-year-olds the lowest on record at 21.5%.

The number of non-UK nationals working in this country increased by 207,000 to a record 3.5m between January and March. The ONS said this compared with a total of 928,000 in 1997, with the proportion of non-UK nationals in the workforce having risen from 3.5% to 11.1% over the same period.

Average earnings increased by 2.4% in the year to March, just 0.1% up on the previous month and below the latest CPI inflation rate of 2.7%. As a result, average weekly earnings in real terms, adjusted for inflation, fell by 0.2% excluding bonuses compared with a year earlier.