MORE than 9,000 people across Somerset signed on for Jobseeker’s Allowance between March and May this year.

As the coronavirus crisis hit the country, and may people faced being on furlough or even losing their jobs, the UK saw an increase of 1,406,630 people sign up to the service since the beginning of the lockdown.

The figure is measured by the ‘claimant count’, which looks at the number of people claiming benefits principally for the reason of being unemployed, based on administrative data from the benefits system across the UK, the claimant count rose from 3 in March, to 6.4 in May.

Across Somerset, 9,220 new claims were made from March to May, taking the claimant count from 2.3 to 5.1, well below the national average.

South Somerset saw the most new claims during lockdown with 2,630, bringing May’s total to 4,495. Despite this, overall, the region has the lowest claimant count in May than other districts in the county at 4.7.

A spokesperson for South Somerset District Council said: “Like all areas across the country, coronavirus has led to an increase in the number of working age people claiming out of work benefits across the county – but this figure continues to remain lower in Somerset than the national average.

“Latest figures reveal Somerset’s Claimant Count rose from 2.3 per cent of the working population in March to 5.1 per cent in May. This means that 5.1 per cent of the working age population (16-64 years) in Somerset were either claiming Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) or Universal Credit (UC) while being required to look for work as of May. In South Somerset, the figure is 4.7 per cent, the lowest in Somerset.”

The district council provided support to 1,764 businesses at a value of £25million, and grants went to 2,900 businesses with a total value of more than £34 million.

Across Somerset West and Taunton, the claimant count rose from 2.2 to 4.9, with a total of 4,315 claims in May.

Both Mendip and Sedgemoor’s claimant count stood at 5.6 in May, with 3,755 and 4,020 claims respectively.

A spokesperson for Somerset County Council said it was important to note the county’s self employed workforce, who were unable to claim grants and would be included in the figures.

An SCC spokesperson added: "We along with our partners are continuing to support Somerset businesses and residents after latest figures released reveal Coronavirus’s effects on the local labour market.

"During lockdown, Somerset’s claimant count rate continued to track below the national average and saw a rate increase of 2.8 compared to the national average of 3.4. As of June 16, the figures continue to show Somerset maintains lower claimant rate of 5.1 versus the national average of 6.4.

“As of June 14, a total of 10,605 business grants have been awarded with new discretionary grants scheme now live across Somerset, with 700 applications so far.

“We are also creating a package of employment and skills support for both businesses and individuals, supporting the tourism recovery plan, creating online virtual work experience, organising online virtual careers fairs, promoting training courses and apprenticeship schemes and launching a Somerset Employment and Skills Hub.”