Lukas Kikuchi, Ishan Khurana and Will Stronge

May 21 2020

photo by Phil Hearing

The ‘Claimant Count’ is an administrative measure of the number of people claiming benefits principally for the reason of being unemployed, using individual records from the benefit system: it gives us a good indication of the numbers of unemployed up and down the country.

 

The 19th May data release – pertaining to the period between 12th March and the9th April – includes the avalanche of unemployment claims that had hitherto been reported by the DWP.

 

In order to help make sense of this unemployment data, we have first plotted the previous claimant counts (spanning from late Jan to mid-March) across the UK at the level of counties and unitary authorities. This way, we have a ‘baseline’ to represent ‘normal’, pre-COVID unemployment levels. We can use this to compare all data from the COVID period – including the lockdown measures that were imposed from mid-March onwards (captured in the 19th May data).

 

To do this, we’ve made an interactive map as part of our analysis – Figure 1, below.

 

Below the choropleth map of the UK, we have charted the age and gender of those claiming for unemployment benefits – visualising these variables as percentages of the overall claimant count in a particular local authority. You can select which part of the country you want to focus on, via a dropdown box.

Geographical data here.

 

 

Counties and Unitary Authorities data here.

 

 

 

Claimant count (monthly) here.

 

 

Residence-based proportions between claimants and residents: This is the official measure below national/regional level. It is available for local authorities, constituencies, travel to work areas, regions and countries and it expresses the number of claimants as a percentage of the population aged 16-64, sourced from the mid-year population estimates. At national/regional level the official measure is the workplace-based rate, but use this measure when comparing national/regional areas with smaller areas (e.g. local authorities) to ensure you are comparing like with like.

+ COVID unemployment is biting hardest in Northern regions of England, such as Blackpool and Middlesbrough as well as the Midlands, e.g. Wolverhampton.

+ The areas that saw the sharpest increase in unemployment since lockdown are Devon, North Yorkshire, Newry, Mourne and Down and Mid Ulster.

+ The 'Home Counties' have been hit too, seeing increases in unemployment ranging from 75% to 108%.

+ COVID unemployment is particularly affecting the young. Around 40% of unemployment claims since lockdown began have come from those under 35 years-old.

+ Around 50% of unemployment claims since lockdown began have come from those under 40 years-old.

+ Men make up 60% of this first phase of lockdown unemployment.

Figure 1: A Comparison With Pre-COVID Unemployment Rates


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Source: Autonomy analysis of ONS

Figure 1 plots the rate of people claiming benefit principally for the reason of being unemployed across three claimant counts from the period between mid-January through til 9th April. You can select which date you would like to see represented on the map: 13th Feb (representing Jan-Feb unemployment), 12th of March (representing Feb-March unemployment), or 9th April (representing March-April unemployment). These represent the different dates when claimant count data was captured. The February and March data sets capture unemployment before the COVID lockdown (or just as COVID was beginning to affect the labour market). The 9th April data is the first to capture the impact of lockdown and the following rise in unemployment.

 

As the colour scale indicates, pale green represents a relatively low claimant count, whilst the shades of blue represent higher rates: this gives us an ‘at a glance’ guide to the UK and its regions.

 

The rate of claimants is the most useful measure of unemployment: it gives us the amount of benefit claimants – and therefore an indication of unemployment –  relative to the population in a particular area. The rate displayed in the above map is the number of claimants for every 100 persons in that region.

 

Headline claimant figures often obscure significant regional disparities across the UK: some places have a greater unemployment problem than others. Our interactive graph above highlights this, and you can track this disparity as the COVID lockdown is enforced from mid-March onwards.

 

Compared to our ‘baseline’ February data – and even the March data – a huge shift can be observed since lockdown: unemployment claims rise almost everywhere.

There were 2,111,510 unemployment claims as of the latest count.

Blackpool, Middlesbrough, Birmingham, Wolverhampton and South Tyneside are the worst hit areas

Blackpool reported the highest rate of unemployment claims, with an 11% rate amongst its population.

 

Middlesborough, Birmingham, Wolverhampton and South Tyneside now each have an unemployment rate of 9%.

York

York saw a 146% increase in unemployment in the period between mid-March and 9th April.

Devon

Devon saw a 138% increase in unemployment in the period between mid-March and 9th April.

North Yorkshire

North Yorkshire saw a 129% increase in unemployment in the period between mid-March and 9th April.

Newry, Mourne and Down

Newry, Mourne and Down saw a 122% increase in unemployment in the period between mid-March and 9th April.

Mid Ulster

Mid Ulster saw a 117% increase in unemployment in the period between mid-March and 9th April.

Inequality between regions is still rife, but the 'Home Counties' have felt the bite of COVID unemployment too

Despite still having relatively low claimant rates compared to Northern regions, areas such as the ‘Home Counties’ have felt the impact of COVID on unemployment too.

 

For example, by the time of the 9th April claimant count, the amount of unemployment claims doubled in Wokingham. The amount of claims rose by 108% in Surrey, 106% in Hampshire and 75% in Kent (see box below).

Hampshire

Hampshire recorded a 1.6% claimant rate on 12th March, which leaped to 3.3% by 9th April – marking a 106% increase in unemployment.

Surrey

Surrey recorded a 1.2% claimant rate on 12th March – one of the lowest in the country. This leaped to 2.5% by 9th April, marking a 108% increase in unemployment.

Wokingham

Wokingham recorded a 1.1% claimant rate on 12th March, which leaped to 2.2% by 9th April – marking a 100% increase in unemployment.

Essex

Essex recorded a 2.4% claimant rate on 12th March, which leaped to 4.4% by 9th April – marking a 83% increase in unemployment.

West Berkshire

West Berkshire recorded a 1.6% claimant rate on 12th March, which leaped to 2.9% by 9th April – marking a 81% increase in unemployment.

Kent

Kent recorded a 2.9% claimant rate on 12th March, which leaped to 5.1% by 9th April – marking a 75% increase in unemployment.

Buckinghamshire

Buckinghamshire recorded a 1.7% claimant rate on 12th March, which leaped to 2.9% by 9th April – marking a 70% increase in unemployment.

Figure 2: The age and gender composition of those filing unemployment claims across the UK

Source: Autonomy analysis of ONS

Figure 2 is an interactive bar chart that plots the age and gender breakdown for unemployment in the selected region for the 9th April claimant count.

 

You can select one of 216 counties / unitary authorities (or the whole of the UK) to see the readout for that area. The bars represent the percentage of unemployment that that age group makes up, as well as the male/female split in that age demographic. For example, a high percentage of claimants in The City of Bristol area are under 35 years of age, shown clearly by the chart.

 

The scroll bar is next to the dropdown list of local areas.

 

Across the UK there were 1,266,895 male unemployment claims and 844,615 female – making it a 60/40 gender split.

60% of unemployment claims have been filed by men

COVID unemployment is concentrated amongst the young: around 40% of all unemployment claims were filed by those who are under 35 years of age

The COVID lockdown period has involved unemployment strongly clustered around younger demographics.

 

Around 50% of all unemployment claims were filed by those who are under 40 years of age.

 

Around 40% of all unemployment claims were filed by those who are under 35 years of age.

Torfaen

41% of unemployment claims in Torfaen were filed by those younger than 35.

Wandsworth

41% of unemployment claims in Wandsworth were filed by those younger than 35.

Lewisham

40% of unemployment claims in Lewisham were filed by those younger than 35.

Hackney

40% of unemployment claims in Hackney were filed by those younger than 35.

City of Bristol

40% of unemployment claims in the City of Bristol were filed by those younger than 35.

Figure 3: Blackpool's COVID unemployment count, by age and gender

Source: Autonomy analysis of ONS

Figure 3 shows the claimant count in Blackpool – the area recording the highest rate – as of 9th April (the latest count). 11% of the population of Blackpool have made an unemployment claim in the COVID lockdown period.

 

To put this statistic in context, the highest unemployment rate since consistent records began was 11.9% in 1984.

The unemployment rate in Blackpool is recorded to be 11.1% - the highest in the UK currently

Note and data sources

Geographical data here.

 

 

Counties and Unitary Authorities data here.

 

 

 

Claimant count (monthly) here.

 

 

Residence-based proportions between claimants and residents: This is the official measure below national/regional level. It is available for local authorities, constituencies, travel to work areas, regions and countries and it expresses the number of claimants as a percentage of the population aged 16-64, sourced from the mid-year population estimates. At national/regional level the official measure is the workplace-based rate, but use this measure when comparing national/regional areas with smaller areas (e.g. local authorities) to ensure you are comparing like with like.