Benefits claims increase as unemployment nationally falls

The number of people claiming work age benefits has increased
The number of people claiming work age benefits has increased
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The number of people claiming Universal Credit across the county has increased but nationally there is a record number of people in work, official figures say.

The Office for National Statistics' latest figures show that employment increased nationally by 168,000 in the quarter to January to 32.2 million, the highest figure since records began in 1971, giving a joint record rate of 75.3 per cent.

But despite the increase, there was a rise of 24,000 in unemployment, to 1.45 million, following a similar jump in the previous quarter.

The claimant count, which includes people on Jobseeker's Allowance and the unemployment element of Universal Credit, increased by 9,200 last month to 837,800, the highest for more than three years.

In the North West for the quarter between November and January, 147,000 were unemployed, down 2,000 on the previous quarter giving an unemployment rate of 4.1 per cent.

But locally the number of people claiming working age benefits was up. Universal Credit can be claimed by family on low incomes to top up their pay and by unemployed people.

In The Blackpool North and Cleveleys constituency, there were 1,815 people claiming, up 0.3 per cent on the same month last year.

In Blackpool South there were 2,580, up 0.3 per cent, in Chorley there were, 1,125, the same as last year, in Fylde, 730, down 0.1 per cent, in Lancaster and Fleetwood, 1,295, up 0.4 per cent.

In Preston there were 1,975 claimants, up 0.2 per cent, in the Ribble Valley, 635, up 0.2 per cent, in South Ribble 835, up 0.1 per cent and in Wyre and Preston North there were 450, up 0.1 per cent.

Nationally average earnings increased by 2.8 per cent in the year to January, a rise of 0.1 per cent on the previous month, and the highest since September 2015.

The figure is 0.6 per cent higher than a year ago but with CPI inflation rate standing at 2.5 per cent and the RPI figure at 3.6 per cent the figures show wages still growing more slowly than prices hitting the public pocket.

The number of self-employed workers fell for the second successive quarter - down by 27,000 to 4.78 million.

There were 5.35 million people employed in the public sector at the end of last year, down by 132,000 from September, entirely caused by the transfer of English housing association employees to the private sector.

Public sector employment accounted for 16.6 per cent of all people in work, the lowest since records began in 1999.

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Esther McVey said: "Getting a job means securing an income for a family and the chance to build a better future. That's why up and down the country we are doing all we can to help people into work.

"And from next month, we'll be taking thousands more people out of paying tax and also increasing the national living wage, benefiting those on the lowest pay and making sure they keep more of what they earn.

"In fact, by raising the national living wage, we have ensured that the lowest earners have seen their wages grow by almost 7 per cent above inflation since 2015."

But TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "It's nine years since the recession ended, but wages are still falling and workers' living standards are worse than a decade ago.

"The great pay squeeze is a long-term crisis. We need major changes to get the economy working again for working people.