Lukas Kikuchi, Ishan Khurana and Will Stronge

June 17 2020

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, but not perfect, indication of the numbers of unemployed up and down the country.

 

The 16th June data release – pertaining to the period between 9th April and 14th May is the second claimant count data release during the lockdown period. See our analysis of the first release here.

 

In order to help make sense of this unemployment data, we have plotted the claimant counts spanning from late Jan to mid-May across the UK at the level of counties and unitary authorities. This way, we can compare a ‘baseline’ to represent ‘normal’, pre-COVID unemployment levels with the claimant count from mid-March onwards (when lockdown was first enacted).

 

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.

+ Covid unemployment has continued to be at its highest levels in Northern regions of England, such as Blackpool and Middlesbrough as well as the Midlands, e.g. Wolverhampton and Birmingham.

+ However, Southern areas such as those in the Home Counties saw the sharpest increase in unemployment since lockdown, including Surrey, Bracknell, Windsor and Wokingham. These areas saw increases in claims of over 200%.

+ The Isles of Scilly have seen an increase in unemployment claims of over 800% since lockdown began. This is likely due to its tourism-focused industrial composition.

+ Covid unemployment is particularly affecting the young. Around 46% of unemployment claims since lockdown began have come from those under 35 years-old. This is a 6% increase on the previous month's data.

+ Around 58% of unemployment claims since lockdown began have come from those under 40 years-old.

+ Men make up 61% of the unemployment claims as of the latest count.

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), 9th April (representing March-April unemployment) or 14th May (representing April-May 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 14th May data is the second data set in the lockdown period.

 

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 consistently 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 and March data sets – a huge shift can be observed since lockdown: unemployment claims have risen everywhere. No local authority saw a decrease in claims according to the latest count (14th May).

There were 2.67 million unemployment claims as of the latest count (covering claims up until May 14)

Blackpool, Middlesbrough, Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Haringey are the worst hit areas to date

Blackpool reported the highest rate of unemployment claims, with an 12.3% rate amongst its population.

 

Middlesborough, Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Haringey now each have an unemployment rate of above 10%.

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 more northern regions, areas such as those in and around the ‘Home Counties’ have felt the impact of Covid on unemployment too. To some extent this impact has been delayed in appearing in the data (only emerging in the current data release).

 

Surrey, Wokingham, Windsor and Maidenhead, Bracknell and Windsor and Maidenhead ranked as the local authorities with the sharpest relative increase in claims across the whole UK.

 

For example, between the 9th April and 14th May claimant counts, the unemployment claim rate rose by 233% in Surrey. The claimant rate rose by 206% in Bracknell Forest,  209% in Wokingham and 207% in Windsor and Maidenhead also. See dropdown box below:

Isles of Scilly

The Isles of Scilly recorded a 0.7% claimant rate on 12th March (just before the onset of lockdown). This leapt to 6.6% by 14th May, marking a 842% increase in claims across the period.

Surrey

Surrey recorded a 1.1% claimant rate on 12th March (just before the onset of lockdown). This leapt to 4% by 14th May, marking a 233% increase in claims across the period.

Wokingham

Wokingham recorded a 1.1% claimant rate on 12th March (just before the onset of lockdown), which leapt to 3.4% by 14th May – marking a 209% increase in unemployment across the period so far.

Windsor and Maidenhead

Windsor and Maidenhead recorded a 1.4% claimant rate on 12th March (just before the onset of lockdown), which leapt to 4.3% by 14th May – marking a 207% increase in unemployment claims across the period.

Bracknell Forest

Bracknell Forest recorded a 1.5% claimant rate on 12th March (just before the onset of lockdown), which leapt to 4.6% by 9th April – marking a 206% increase in unemployment across the period.

Harrow

Harrow recorded a 2.2% claimant rate on 12th March, which leapt to 2.6% by 9th April – marking a 200% increase in unemployment.

Figure 2: Regional inequality and claimant rates across local authority areas in the UK

Source: Autonomy analysis of ONS

Figure 2 shows that places such as Blackpool, South Tyneside and Hartlepool came into the Covid era with much higher claimant rates than places such as Surrey or Hampshire. However these latter regions of the UK have experienced higher rates of increase in unemployment claims (in some cases going from 1% to 4% of the course of lockdown).

 

  • Local authority areas with claimant rates of >10% have seen, on average, a 90% relative increase in the claimant rate. 

 

  • Local authority areas with claimant rates of <5% have seen, on average, a 150% relative increase in the claimant rate. 

 

  • The Home Counties have seen, on average, a 167% increase, ranging from 120% in Kent to 233% in Surrey.*

 

*Home Counties used in this calculation include: Surrey, Hampshire, West Berkshire, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Dorset, Oxfordshire, Essex, Kent, Central Bedfordshire, East Sussex, West Sussex.

Figure 3: The age and gender composition of those filing unemployment claims across the UK

Source: Autonomy analysis of ONS

Figure 3 is an interactive bar chart that plots the age and gender breakdown for unemployment in the selected region for the 14th 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 small scroll bar is next to the dropdown list of local areas.

 

Across the UK there were 1,634,985 male unemployment claims and 1,040,265 female – making it a 61/39 gender split.

61% of unemployment claims have been filed by men

COVID unemployment is concentrated amongst the young: around 46% of all unemployment claims were filed by those who are under 35 years of age

The Covid lockdown period has involved a concentration of unemployment for younger demographics.

 

Around 58% of all unemployment claims were filed by those who are under 40 years of age.

 

Around 46% of all unemployment claims were filed by those who are under 35 years of age.

 

These demographic figures, we should note, are not in fact out of the ordinary for the past 20 or so years.

Figure 4: Unemployment increases by age group over the Covid period

Source: Autonomy analysis of ONS

Salford

65% of unemployment claims in Salford were filed by those younger than 40.

City of Bristol

64% of unemployment claims in the City of Bristol were filed by those younger than 40.

Torfaen

64% of unemployment claims in Torfaen were filed by those younger than 40.

Rhondda Cynon Taff

63% of unemployment claims in Rhondda Cynon Taff were filed by those younger than 40.

Blaenau Gwent

63% of unemployment claims in Blaenau Gwent were filed by those younger than 40.

Oldham

63% of unemployment claims in Oldham were filed by those younger than 40.

Manchester

63% of unemployment claims in Manchester were filed by those younger than 40.

Figure 5: Blackpool's Covid unemployment count, by age and gender

Source: Autonomy analysis of ONS

Figure 5 shows the claimant count in Blackpool – the area recording the highest rate – as of 14th May (the latest count). 12.3% of the population of Blackpool have made an unemployment claim in the Covid lockdown period.

 

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

The unemployment rate in Blackpool is recorded to be 12.3% - the highest in the UK currently

Note and data sources

Geographical data here.

 

 

Counties and Unitary Authorities data here.

 

 

 

Claimant count (monthly) here.

 

(Note: the claimant count figure is rounded and does away with potential discrepancies which are of the order ~50 claimants.)

 

(Note: age demographic findings (of claimants) are affected by the age composition in that local authority location. E.g. the workforce might be predominantly made up of young people and thus the prevalence of young people in the data for that location).

 

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.