The number of people claiming unemployment benefit has soared over the past month in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of people claiming benefit primarily for the reason of being unemployed rose by 69.1% in April.

Although that shows a huge increase across the UK, the South West is the worst affected, which had the largest monthly increase of 97.9%.

With the pandemic having had a devastating impact on many people’s livelihoods, how many people are now unemployed in the UK – and how can you go about claiming benefit?

What is the unemployment rate in the UK?

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According to the ONS the number of people claiming unemployment allowance in the UK in April soared to 2.1m.

Their figures also showed that unemployment in the UK also increased by 50,000 in the first quarter of this year, to 1.35m, as the pandemic began to take hold.

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Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician for economic statistics at the ONS, said of the latest unemployment figure: ‘While only covering the first weeks of restrictions, our figures show Covid-19 is having a major impact on the labour market.

‘In March employment held up well, as furloughed workers still count as employed, but hours worked fell sharply in late March, especially in sectors such as hospitality and construction.

‘Through April, there were signs of falling employment as real-time tax data show the number of employees on companies’ payrolls fell noticeably, and vacancies were sharply down too, with hospitality again falling steepest.’

How much is unemployment benefit?

The rate for unemployment benefit – also known as Job Seeker’s Allowance – varies according to age.

Those aged 24 and under are entitled to up to £58.90 per week while those aged 25 and over can claim up to £74.35 a week.

For couples when both are aged 18 or over the weekly rate is up to £116.80.

This is normally paid fortnightly into your bank, building society or credit union account.

You can claim benefit for up to six months, and after that you will need to discuss your options with your work coach.

How can you claim unemployment benefit?

You can visit the government’s website to apply online – or if you are unable to do so you can call Jobcentre Plus on 0800 055 6688.

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You will receive a text notifying that your application has been received if you apply online.

Due to the coronavirus restrictions you currently do not have to visit your local Jobcentre in person for an interview, and will be contacted if there are any further questions about your application.

There are currently three different types of Jobseekers’ Allowance – new style, contribution based, and income based.

You can visit the Government’s website to check what you are eligible to claim for and how you can claim it.

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