The Covid Unemployment Tracker

Last updated by Lukas Kikuchi on June 2nd 2021

Welcome to Autonomy’s unemployment tracker.


In order to help make sense of unemployment in the UK, we have plotted ONS claimant count data, spanning from September 2019 across the UK at the level of counties and local authorities. This way, we can see the story of unemployment from a pre-COVID period, through mid-March 2020 (when lockdown was first enacted), right up until the most recent data set. 


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


Below the choropleth map of the UK, in Figure 2, 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. 

Blackpool, Haringey and Birmingham are the local authorities with the highest unemployment rate in the UK today.


+ Top 10 local authorities with the highest claimant rates:

  1. Blackpool 12.4%
  2. Haringey 11.8%
  3. Birmingham 11.5%
  4. Newham 11.4%
  5. Brent 11.3%
  6. Barking and Dagenham 11.1%
  7. Wolverhampton 10.7%
  8. Waltham Forest 10.7%
  9. Middlesbrough 10.5%
  10.  Ealing 10.3%


+ Southern unemployment rates have increased drastically across the Covid era, levelling out the differences between North and South in this regard.


+ Claimant rates in the North and Midlands remain higher than in the South (not including London, which retains a high unemployment rate).


+ Across the Covid era, London areas have seen the most drastic % increases in claimant rates across the UK.

Figure 1: Unemployment in the UK during the Covid era

Source: Autonomy analysis of ONS

Figure 1 plots the rate of people claiming benefit principally for the reason of being unemployed from the period between September 2019 through until April 2021. 


These represent the different dates when claimant count data was captured. The data from September 2019 through till February and March 2020  capture unemployment before the Covid lockdown (or just as Covid was beginning to affect the labour market). The 9th April 2020 data set is the first to capture the impact of lockdown.


You can select which date you would like to see represented on the map by using the slider underneath. You can also zoom in to identify particular local authorities, which can be seen by hovering your cursor over the area.


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 ‘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 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 was enforced from mid-March 2020 onwards.

Figure 2: The age and gender composition of those filing unemployment claims across the UK as of April 2021

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 latest 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. 


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

The Great Levelling of the Unemployment Landscape

Figure 3: Regional differences in increases in unemployment claims across the UK across the Covid period to date

Source: Autonomy analysis of ONS

Figure 3 plots the % increase in unemployment claims since January 2020 across four different selected regions. 


For our purposes, we have counted everything below the East and West Midlands as ‘South’, and everything above as ‘North’. London has been plotted independently, as well as within the South.

Figure 4: The ratio between unemployment claims between regions across the UK across the Covid era

Source: Autonomy analysis of ONS

Figure 4 plots the relationship between the claimant rates in the North and Midlands on the one hand and those in the South on the other, across the Covid era. 



It shows that unemployment rates were as much as 50% higher, relative to the South, in Northern regions prior to Covid, and that this difference has been drastically reduced as lockdown measures were introduced at the end of March 2020. Claimant rates in the North and Midlands are now just 10% higher than Southern rates. This is due in large part to the increase in claimant rates in Southern regions.


Not only was there a dramatic reduction in the difference between Northern/Midlands unemployment rates and those in the South, but since May 2020 this difference has continued to decline steadily. This shows an ongoing trend towards parity.



For our purposes, we have counted everything below the East and West Midlands as ‘South’, and everything above as ‘North’. London has been plotted independently, as well as within the South.

Figure 5: Percentage increase of claimant rate across the UK across the Covid era

Source: Autonomy analysis of ONS

Figure 5 plots the % increase in rate of unemployment claims across the UK. It compares current claimant rates (April 2021) with those occurring in January 2020 (i.e. pre-Covid).


It shows that while many regions across the UK have seen remarkable increases in claimant rates, the South has seen the sharpest change.

The Unemployment Tracker is a feature of the Unemployed Workers Project. It is supported by the Alex Ferry Foundation.

Note and data sources

Geographical data here.


The North:

‘North East’,
‘North West’,
‘Yorkshire and The Humber’


The South:

South East,
South West



East and West Midlands


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.