RISING numbers of people in York are turning to Universal Credit as the coronavirus crisis continues to bite.

In June, 12,500 unemployed people and those on low incomes in York claimed Universal Credit, up by 376 since May.

The Office for National Statistics data shows the pandemic has now cost the UK 649,000 jobs, including 74,000 last month, with 2.6 million working-age adults now relying on benefits.

The job retention scheme continues to hide the extent of the jobs crisis, with 9.4 million jobs still protected by furlough.

In Selby, 5,330 people claimed Universal Credit last month, up from 5,197 in May. In Ryedale those figures were 3,622, up from 3,553, while in Scarborough 9,782 people claimed the support last month, up from 5,197 in May.

The ONS said early estimates showed the number of paid employees fell by 1.9 per cent year on year in June to 28.4 million, and by 0.3 per cent compared with the previous month.

Liz Hutchinson, of York and North Yorkshire, Department of Work and Pensions, said the figures included different scenarios, from people who had lost their jobs to those who were still working, but with reduced hours, who were claiming to top up a low income.

She said the numbers had steadied, and vacancies were available in areas such as retail, hospitality and cleaning. But, she said, there was now more competition, and job seekers should be open-minded when applying for work.

Andrew Digwood, president of the York and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, said the Chamber was 'deeply concerned' about immediate job prospects in the area.

He said some members were having to make difficult decisions due to economic pressures without real clarity around the expectations for economic recovery.

"As the gradual re-opening of our retail, hospitality and leisure sectors has shown, York is a city of resilient businesses and businesspeople, and even now we know some businesses locally are still actively hiring which is great news.

"But, I think as a city and as a region, York and North Yorkshire have an opportunity to ask what sort of jobs and what sort of economy we want to create for ourselves, and particularly for people entering the jobs market now or in the near future."

He added: "I’d like to see greater support from Government focussed on retraining and “reskilling or upskilling,” including perhaps a more flexible approach to the Apprenticeship Levy scheme.

"Firstly, I’d like to see this as part of a drive to rebalance our regional economy to be less reliant on low-paid, low productivity jobs and instead to build on our existing strengths in areas like biotech, sustainable technologies, digital creativity and specialist engineering to create more opportunities in those better-paid, more productive sectors and locally to train the people to fill them.

"Secondly, I think it could be vital to support our existing businesses to be able to adapt quickly to the rapidly-changing demands of what may now emerge as the post-Covid workplace.

"The currently developing conversation around regional devolution also has a role to play here. It represents an important opportunity for us to get more localised control of funding for training and skills that can be tailored to the needs and the strengths of our region, to help create an environment where businesses can establish and grow and where the talented and enthusiastic young people coming out of our educational institutions can stay, finding good jobs and helping to build the success of York & North Yorkshire in the future.”