MORE than twice as many people in Hampshire were unemployed last month as in 2020 – and young people were the hardest-hit.

Southampton had 12,027 people out of work and claiming benefits in April, up 116 per cent on last year.

Of those, 2,245 were aged 18-24 – a rise of 150 per cent on last year.

But there were signs of improvements, with the national unemployment rate falling slightly from January to March.

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Andy Sherman, employer and partnership manager for the Department of Work and Pensions in Hampshire and Dorset, said: “We’re seeing vacancies start to improve, especially in the hospitality sector as they recruit to full those roles prior to reopening.”

In Winchester there were 2,885 jobless claimants, up 162 per cent on last year, and 559 young people, up 265 per cent.

In Eastleigh, the total was 3,178, up 146 per cent, and the figure for young people was 625, up 203 per cent.

In Test Valley, there were 2,786 claimants total, up 153 per cent, and 536 young people, up 210 per cent.

In the New Forest, there were 4,062 claimants, up 139 per cent, and 731 young people, up 211 per cent.

In Fareham, there were 2,477 claimants, up 186 per cent, and 505 young people, up 251 per cent. And in Gosport, there were 2,875 claimants, up 125 per cent, and 603 young people, up 297 per cent.

The figures are the government’s “alternative claimant count” of people out of work and on Universal Credit.

Mr Sherman said the department doubled its number of work coaches to 27,000 by March 2021.

The national Kickstart Scheme is providing six-month placements for young people at risk of long-term unemployment, with the government covering the cost of the National Minimum Wage for 25 hours a week.

“Younger people are disproportionately impacted by redundancies in the pandemic because they tend to be more represented in the hospitality and leisure industries,” said Mr Sherman.

The government is making available £150milion so Jobcentres can provide tailored support for their local communities and provide a rapid response to large local redundancies.

Nationally, the rate of unemployment fell slightly between January and March to 4.8 per cent and the number of workers on payrolls rose by 97,000 from March to April.

However, unemployment is expected to rise as employers are required to contribute to the costs of the furlough scheme, with the support due to end entirely at the end of September.

The Bank of England expects unemployment to peak at 5.5 per cent, not the 7.75 per cent previously forecast.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said yesterday: “Protecting and creating jobs continues to be my top priority.

“While sadly not every job can be saved, nearly two million fewer people are now expected to be out of work than initially expected – showing our Plan for Jobs is working.”