UK jobless claims rise by 70% in April to 2.1 million

A woman in a protective face mask walks through Brixton Market in South London, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Victoria Jones | PA Images via Getty Images

The number of people claiming unemployment benefits in the U.K. soared in April, as the coronavirus outbreak created mass job losses in the country, the latest data showed.

U.K. jobless claims rose by 856,500 to 2.097 million, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said on Tuesday, representing a monthly increase of 69.1%. A Reuters poll of economists had produced a median forecast for an increase of 676,500 in the claimant count.

The ONS noted, however, that enhancements to “Universal Credit” (a social security payment designed to simplify the benefits system by rolling six benefits into one payment) as part of the U.K. government’s response to Covid-19 meant that an increasing number of people became eligible for unemployment-related benefit support, although they were still employed.

“Consequently changes in the claimant count will not be due wholly to changes in the number of people who are unemployed. We are not able to identify to what extent people who are employed or unemployed have affected the numbers,” the ONS said.

The U.K.’s unemployment rate came in slightly higher at 3.9% in the January-March period, although that time period covered only one week of the lockdown (imposed in the U.K. from March 23). The rate was up 0.1 percentage points from a year earlier and was 0.1 percentage points higher than in the last quarter of 2019.

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