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Claiming for benefits up record 69% in a month

UNEMPLOYMENT claims soared by 69 per cent last month as the lockdown gripped the labour market, official figures reveal.

Claims under universal credit rose by a record 856,000 to 2.1million in the month to April, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Meanwhile, early estimates show the number of paid employees fell by 1.6 per cent compared with March.

Job vacancies also dropped, down 170,000 to 637,000 in the three months to April compared with the previous quarter.

The ONS revealed that unemployment rose by 50,000 to 1.35million in the three months to March.

ONS statistician Jonathan Athow said: ‘In March employment held up well, as furloughed workers still count as employed. But hours worked fell sharply in late March, especially in hospitality and construction.’

He said that through April ‘real-time tax data’ revealed the number of employees on payrolls ‘fell noticeably’. Vacancies were sharply down ‘with hospitality again falling steepest’.

Employment minister Mims Davies said: ‘Clearly these figures are behind on our current struggle but the impact of this global health emergency is now starting to show — and we’re doing everything we can to protect jobs and livelihoods.’

Shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Reynolds said: ‘These figures show the severity of the crisis we are facing. We support the changes the government has made so far during the outbreak, but they do not match the scale of the crisis.’

Fiona Cincotta, market analyst at Gain Capital, said: ‘At the peak of the financial crisis jobless claims hit a high of 136,000. This figure is going to get worse before it gets better.’