CONCERNS have been raised after new figures show Bradford has been hit with a 90 per cent rise in unemployment in a year.

Analysis of the latest data, released by the Office for National Statistics, also highlights that Bradford has the fourth highest rate of unemployment benefit claimants among cities and large towns.

MP for Shipley, Philip Davies, and area which has seen unemployment double in the last year, has spoken of the "economic devastation" left behind due to Covid-19. He also urged that the economy be reopened, particularly given the success of the vaccine rollout.

In Bradford there were a total of 32,190 people claiming unemployment benefits last month - which is a 89.5 per cent rise on the same time last year. It is also a 4.2 per cent rise on the previous month.

This leaves Bradford with a claimant count of 9.7 per cent when expressed as a percentage of the local working age population.

The Shipley constituency has seen the sharpest rise in the district - 102.9 per cent on the year, with a total of 3,155 people now claiming unemployment benefits there. This compares to 1,555 people a year ago.

Elsewhere, the claimant count is highest in Bradford West at 12.7 per cent, with Bradford East at 12.2 per cent. Both these two constituencies have more than 9,000 people on unemployment benefits.

Conservative, Mr Davies told the Telegraph & Argus: "It is of huge concern that unemployment has doubled in my constituency due to the lockdowns and arbitrary restrictions that have been in place over the last year, and my heart goes out to all of those whose livelihoods have been taken away from them.

"The biggest worry is that the numbers have doubled whilst we still have the furlough scheme in place and I am extremely worried about the economic devastation which will be left behind when all of those support packages come to an end.

"I fear we will look back one day and wonder what on earth we did to the economy, people’s jobs and livelihoods in taking such extreme measures to deal with a virus with a 99.5% survival rate.

"It will take years to recover from the economic devastation we have inflicted on ourselves, and this is why it is vital that – with so many people vaccinated – we get the economy reopened straight away and start the process of creating jobs for those who have lost theirs through no fault of their own."

Analysis by Centre for Cities outlines how only Birmingham (10.0 per cent), Blackpool (10.0 per cent) and Hull (9.8 per cent) currently have a higher claimant count than Bradford at 9.7 per cent. This has risen from 9.3 per cent the previous month and 5.1 per cent a year ago.

Regionally this figure is 6.7 and nationally it is 6.6 per cent, showing just how hard Bradford has been hit.

The Centre for Cities UK unemployment tracker looks at how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting unemployment in cities and large towns.

Based on the data released yesterday by the ONS, the organisation shows that in Bradford, claimant counts have risen by 4.6 per centage points since March 2020, and 0.4 per centage points in the past month.

While the claimant count current sits at 9.7 per cent, its pre-lockdown average was 5.2 per cent.

Councillor Imran Khan, Bradford Council’s deputy leader and education, employment and skills portfolio holder, said that the pandemic has had a "big impact" on unemployment in the district and region, adding: "We’re told by Government that we’re in for the biggest reduction in the nation’s economy seen in the last 300 years.

“The Bradford District Economic Recovery Plan seeks to addresses national challenges including the economic fallout from the Covid-19 restrictions, social inequalities made worse by the pandemic and increased pressure on public finances.

“Behind each one of these statistics of unemployment is a personal impact on a person who has left employment which is why it’s such a priority for us. We’ve invested £1 million in our SkillsHouse programme to support people gain the skills they need to get a decently paid job.  And the West Yorkshire Combined Authority is going to be supporting this further with £13.5 million invested in skills across West Yorkshire. 

“Clearly there is more to do and just today we have had a focus event with skills providers and employers about how we can tackle unemployment and youth unemployment in our district. This demonstrates that, despite the difficult circumstances we face today, there is commitment from our local employers and skills providers to address the issues surrounding unemployment in the district.”

Tracy Othen of the Department for Work and Pensions in Bradford told the T&A that 44 young people in the district had already started paid work placements through the Government's Kickstart scheme.

She added that a total of 241 roles had already been agreed locally as part of the scheme which is designed to give 16-24-year-olds on Universal Credit a six months paid work experience to improve their chances of finding a permanent job.

The £2 billion scheme sees the Government cover 100 per cent of the National Minimum Wage for 25 hours a week for each six-month job placement.

In addition she said that the DWP had further boosted the numbers of retraining places on Sector-based Work Academy Programmes.

The boost will see the number of training places increase to 80,000 for the next financial year, building on the 40,000 delivered over the last eight months.

In Bradford they are working on training sessions about LGV driving skills, fibre data operators for the broadband installation industry, and railway maintenance roles.