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Fall in north unemployment masks 'a cost of living crisis', says Jamie Stone


By Gordon Calder

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A DROP in the number of unemployed people in Caithness, Sutherland and easter Ross has been welcomed by MP, Jamie Stone, but he said the reduction masks "a cost of living crisis facing individuals across the constituency."

The latest figures show that 3.7 per cent of the population aged 16-64 had no job last month compared to 4.8 per cent nationally.

Jamie Stone is worried about "a cost of living crisis" in the constituency despite fall in jobless total.
Jamie Stone is worried about "a cost of living crisis" in the constituency despite fall in jobless total.

The Liberal Democrat MP spoke out after research by the House of Commons library revealed the number of people claiming unemployment-related benefits in the north fell to 1335 in October – 125 fewer claimants than in September.

Mr Stone said:"While it is welcome news that the unemployment rate in Caithness, Sutherland and easter Ross has dropped, these figures mask a cost of living crisis facing individuals across the constituency – many of whom will now be relying on in-work benefits to make ends meet.

"With prices rising and winter nearing, we need the Government to urgently step in and ease the burden on struggling households."

His Liberal Democrat colleague and Treasury spokesperson, Christine Jardine, agreed and said: "The Government mustn't get complacent off the back of these figures. Thousands of people are worried about higher energy bills, higher taxes and cuts to Universal Credit.

"Meanwhile, countless businesses are crying out for help with record staff shortages – whether HGV drivers, chefs or foresters – yet the Government has no plan whatsoever.

"Ministers can't ignore these problems below the surface. We need to see real support with the cost-of-living crisis, starting with reversing the unfair cut to Universal Credit. And a proper plan to recruit all the extra workers on which our businesses depend."

The figures reveal that the unadjusted claimant count was 2.06 million in October – 14,900 less than the month before but 815,400 more than in March 2020.

Following the start of the pandemic, the claimant count more than doubled while the rise in unemployment was much smaller.

According to the research, that was partly due to changes in Universal Credit eligibility, and partly due to people being temporarily away from work or earning less because of the pandemic. Since the beginning of 2021, both measures have decreased, with the claimant count decreasing more rapidly than the unemployment rate.


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