The number of people claiming unemployment benefit in Essex has increased by almost 75 per cent during the first full month of the coronavirus lockdown – figures described as “shocking and staggering”.

In Castle Point, which has seen the highest increase in unemployment, saw the number of people claiming unemployment benefit rise from 1,045 to 2,260 between March and April.

Rochford recorded an increase of 108 per cent, whereas in Uttlesford the number of people claiming unemployment benefit rose by 106 per cent – from 650 to 1,345 between March and April.

Tendring, which had the highest level of unemployment, saw the figures rise from 3,635 to 6,045 – an increase of 66 per cent.

New figures from the Office for National Statistics have revealed that 51,660 people from Essex were claiming unemployment benefit this April.

It means that an extra 21,995 people were added to the system in a single month – a dramatic increase of 74 per cent from the 29,705 claimants in March.

Councillor Ivan Henderson, who represents Harwich on Essex County Council, said: “These are shocking and staggering figures and it’s going to be a mountain to climb for national and local government to deal with this impact.

“We are going to have to think outside the box to make sure we give businesses every encouragement we can for them to remain in Essex and every encouragement we can to attract more businesses. At the same time we are going to have to use every resource we have to deal with these massive unemployment figures.

“Behind every one of those individuals there are going to be real issues that the councils are going to have to tackle.

“It looks like the highest areas of deprivation are being hit again. So those areas which are already suffering are going to have even bigger problems.

“These should not be easy fixes. They are going to have to start to deal with these problems that have existed for a long time. They cannot hide behind this virus.”

Colchester and Chelmsford also have significant increases. Colchester saw the figure rise by 83 per cent from 2,720 claimants to 4,980, while the number of claimants in Chelmsford increased from 2,085 to 3,455 – a rise of 65 per cent.

Meanwhile, the number of claimants in Southend-on-Sea rose by 56 per cent, from 4,400 in March to 6,860 in April – 6.1 per cent of people in the area.

In Thurrock the number of claimants rose by 53 per cent from 3,585 in March to 5,495 in April – five per cent of people in the area.

Nationally, there were 2.1 million people who were claiming unemployment benefit in April across the UK – up by 67 per cent from 1.3 million in March.

It means 5.1 per cent of working age adults are now claimants.

The benefit claimant count is a combination of claimants of Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) and claimants of Universal Credit (UC) who fall within the UC ‘searching for work’ conditionality.

It includes some people that are still working a small number of hours and earning a little, but who are claiming UC and are required to look for work as part of that.

It also does not include everyone who is out of work, since not everyone is entitled to claim assistance, but it does indicate the trend in the employment market.

Separate ONS figures showed UK unemployment rose by 50,000 to 1.35 million in the three months to March, and the number of people affected is likely to worsen sharply in the coming months.

Mims Davies, minister for employment, said: “The impact of this global health emergency is now starting to show – and we’re doing everything we can to protect jobs and livelihoods.

“What some of these statistics do highlight is that heading into the pandemic, we had built strong foundations in our economy, which will be crucial as we gradually move forward as the lockdown eases and look to bounce back.”