400% rise in Universal Credit claims in March

New analysis shows a steep increase in applications for Universal Credit as statistics show high levels of employment before the pandemic.

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New claims for Universal Credit increased by at least 400% between February and March, according to new analysis from the Institute of Employment Studies.

The IES says this steep increase in applications is more than five times greater than the previous monthly increase in new claims for unemployment benefits, which was set in July 1994.

In all, 1.4 million people made a claim for Universal Credit in the month of March. The average monthly figure for the previous year was 235,000.

Tony Wilson, Director of the Institute for Employment Studies, said: “Today’s figures show beyond any doubt the scale of the economic shock that we’ve experienced over the last month.  These increases dwarf anything that we have seen in at least the last 40 years and likely in a lifetime.  Clearly, this doesn’t mean that we should end the lockdown.  But it does mean that we need action on jobs now – so that we can help those out of work to find those jobs that still exist in the economy, and to keep people close to work so that they can get back into work as quickly as possible as the lockdown eases.  We’re calling for a ‘Cobra for Jobs’ to bring together government, employers and civil society to help get Britain back to work.”

IES analysis of job vacancy levels, published yesterday, shows that, despite vacancies falling by around 40%, there remain nearly half a million live job openings.

The IES report comes as the latest Office for National Statistics show that in the three months to February 2020, employment was at 76.6 per cent – 0.4 percentage points higher than a year earlier and 0.2 percentage points up on the previous quarter.

The figures also showed that both vacancies and pay had started to drop in the first three months of the year, with earnings growth slowing from a high of 2 per cent in the three months to June 2019 to 1.2 per cent in the three months to February.

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