The number of people seeking work in Cumbria has jumped by 81 per cent in a month – the highest increase since the county’s records began in 1986.

The first figures released to reflect the impact of the initial coronavirus lockdown reported people on Universal Credit actively looking for a job and those on Jobseeker’s Allowance was 12,530, an increase of 5,595 from March.

South Lakeland was the district with the biggest rise. It saw a 201.2 per cent leap in people claiming the benefits, up 1,335. Eden rose by 136.9 per cent with an extra 640 people. Carlisle was up 77 per cent, with an extra 1,330 claimants.

Allerdale saw an additional 1,035 people claiming the benefits, a 65 per cent rise. Barrow had 660 more people claiming, a rise of 53.3 per cent and Copeland registered a 47.8 per cent rise with an extra 1,330 claims.

In the Lake District National Park, the claimant count rose by 645, an increase of 297 per cent.

However, the claimant rate in Cumbria has risen from 2.3 per cent to 4.2 per cent and all areas in Cumbria are below the new national rate of 5.1 per cent.

Shane Byrne, partnership manager for the Department of Work and Pensions in Cumbria, said: “I am actually quietly confident about the future of the economy, as lockdown eases and we start to reopen the county to people.

“The figures reflect people who have been furloughed and the self-employed – of which Cumbria has a high proportion of. The demographic of people we are dealing with has changed and we will continue to support them until they get back to work.

“Obviously the tourism industry has been hit hard, but there is also growth, with positions for delivery drivers, in warehouses and those in healthcare available.

“”I believe there will be a bounce back and as the next few weeks unfold, we will be using our expertise and working with our partners to continue to support people – the next challenge is those who are at risk of redundancy following the lockdown.”

He paid tribute to the JobCentre staff who have fielded thousands of calls and supported people as they navigate the system.

He added: “There is a great digital offering with Universal Credit so we have been able to use that to contact clients, as well as calling them to discuss their needs.

“If we’d still been on the paper-based system of Jobseeker’s Allowance, the system would have buckled. But this system has allowed us to continue.

“Our offices are working on an appointment only system for the most vulnerable and we will continue to follow Government advice.”

Nationally, UK unemployment claims soared by more than 69 per cent in April.

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) said that jobless claims under Universal Credit surged by 856,000 to 2.1 million in April, compared with the previous month.

Job vacancies also significantly decreased, with the number of empty posts in the three months to April diving by 170,000 to 637,000, compared to the previous quarter.

The ONS also revealed that unemployment increased by 50,000 to 1.35 million in the three months to March, as the impact of the pandemic first started to be felt in the UK.

Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician for economic statistics at the ONS, said: "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, though, 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."

Tej Parikh, chief economist at the Institute of Directors, said: "Even before lockdown, coronavirus was threatening to take the shine off the UK's sterling jobs record, and initial estimates for April don't make for easy reading.

"It's clear that without the Government's furlough scheme, the picture would have rapidly deteriorated even further."