As nationally, Bedford Borough was
greatly impacted by the recession, and unemployment
levels rose sharply from pre-recession levels.
Claimant count4 unemployment, which
measures those claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, rose from a low of
1,918 in December 2007 to a peak of 4,363 in February
However, since then unemployment has declined
steadily, as it has across England, and fell below 3,000 in May
2014 (2,977) for the first time since December 2008.
It has since continued to decline, falling to
1,958 in September 2015.
Unemployment in September 2015 represented
1.9% of the working age population (16-64), higher than the rates
for England (1.6%) and the East of England (1.2%):
Jobseeker’s Allowance Claimant Count, September 2001-
Source: Jobseeker’s Allowance Claimant Count, ONS via
Nomis, accessed October 2015
At ward level there are large differences in
unemployment rates, ranging from under 1% in some rural wards to
4.2% in Castle ward and 3.7% in Harpur:
Jobseeker’s Allowance Claimant Count by Ward, September
Source: Jobseeker’s Allowance Claimant Count, ONS
via Nomis, accessed October 2015. Ward
calculations by the Community Intelligence Team, Bedford Borough
Age, Gender and Duration of Claimant Count
Unemployment among the 18-24 age group has declined
significantly since its high of 1,105 in February 2013, and stood
at 300 in September 2015. Reducing unemployment among
this age group and ensuring that all young people have access to
training opportunities is a key government and local priority.
Not only did unemployment increase as a result
of the recession, but the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s
Allowance for more than 12 months also rose sharply. From 255 and
12% of all claimants in February 2008, this rose steadily to
1,245 and 30% of claimants in May 2013.
Though the number claiming for more than 12
months declined to 685 in September 2015, they accounted for 35% of
The long term JSA unemployment rate in the
Borough (0.7% of the 16-64 population) is much higher than both
England (0.4%) and the East of England (0.3%).
Females represented 35% of long-term claimants
in September 2015, compared to 22% in May 2008.
Broader Measures of Unemployment
A broader measure of unemployment in the Borough is provided
by ONS modelled estimates which combine the results of the
Annual Population Survey with the Claimant Count data.
On this measure, there was an average of 5,200
people looking for work in July 2014 – June 2015 (6.1% of the
economically active population aged 16+), slightly above the
national average (5.6%).
Claimant count unemployment, however, does not
measure the full level and impact of
worklessness. A more
representative measure is the number of people of working age
(16-64) who are claiming out-of-work benefits.
Out-of-Work Benefits data is taken from the
ONS Working Age Client Group dataset. It counts the number of
people of working age who are claiming one or more Department for
Work and Pensions (DWP) benefits, and is often used as an indicator
of worklessness. It includes 4 types of benefits:
- Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Employment Support Allowance (ESA) & Incapacity
- Lone Parents
- Other Income Related Benefits
In May 2015 there were 8,620 claimants in Bedford Borough
or 8.4% of the 16-64 population, compared to 9.1% in England and
7.3% in the East of England.
The largest group of claimants (60%) were receiving
Employment Support Allowance or Incapacity Benefit, followed by
Jobseeker’s Allowance (24%). Lone Parents accounted for
approximately 13% of claimants, with 3% claiming Other
At ward level, 5 wards (Castle, Cauldwell, Goldington,
Harpur, and Kingsbrook) had rates over 12%:
Out-of-Work Benefits Claimants by
Ward, May 2015
Source: Out-of-Work Benefits Claimants, DWP via NOMIS,
accessed November 2015. Ward calculations by the
Community Intelligence Team, Bedford Borough Council.
The Claimant Count is the number of people
who are claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance. This is a very
restricted measure of unemployment, since many people who both want
to work and are available for work do not qualify for the benefit,
and it under-estimates the true level of unemployment.
Nevertheless, the Claimant Count is a very useful labour market
indicator because it is based on actual claimants and has no
sampling error, and therefore provides valuable data on numbers,
age, gender and duration of unemployment. It is also
available at a variety of geographies, including national,
regional, local authority, wards and Lower Super Output Areas
(LSOAs) – and is the only source of unemployment data for wards and
A further advantage of Claimant Count data is that it is
current, whereas broader (International Labour Organisation) based
estimates of unemployment and out of work benefits data are both
published with a considerable time lag.
5It should be noted that
DWP classifies each claimant by the highest level of benefit
claimed on a benefits hierarchy. As a result, for example, the
number of lone parents may be higher than indicated since some will
also be claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance and will be recorded only
under that benefit.
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