The number of people classed as unemployment in Cumbria has rocketed by 255 – marking a seventh consecutive month of rises and the second largest in just under a year.

According to latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 6,905 people claimed Jobseeker’s Allowance or received support through Universal Credit to seek work in the county during January – dramatically up from the revised figure for December of 6,650.

And the proportion of Cumbria’s working age population seeking work also nudged up from 2.2 per cent to 2.3 per cent – but remains well below the national average of 2.9 per cent.

The rise marks a bad start to 2020 and remains at odds with a national picture of falling unemployment and record levels of employment.

It is the biggest increase in the number of people seeking work in the county since the huge rise of 415 claims made in February last year.

There were rises across the board in January for Cumbria’s six districts.

South Lakeland suffered the biggest rise, with 55 new claims made. However, the total number of claims, 650, represents just 1.1 per cent of the district’s working age population – the lowest percentage for the whole of Cumbria.

Allerdale recorded a rise of 50 new claims, taking the total to 1,625 and representing 2.8 per cent of the working age population.

There was an increase in 45 claims in Carlisle, taking its total to 1,625 (2.5 per cent), while Eden recorded a rise of 40 and an overall total of 475 (1.5 per cent).

Barrow and Copeland recorded the smallest rises of 35 and 30 new claims made, taking their totals to 1,240 and 1,290 respectively.

However, they both have the largest proportion of people seeking work in Cumbria at 3.2 per cent for Barrow and 3 per cent for Copeland – both above the national average.

The increase in unemployment has coincided with the introduction of the controversial Universal Credit system across the county, which was completed in December 2018. The full rollout is expected to take another few years.

Nationally, unemployment fell by 16,000 to 1.29 million for the last three months, while the number of people in work increased by 180,000 to 32.93, according to the ONS.

Its deputy head of labour market statistics Myrto Miltiadou said: “Employment has continued its upward trend, with the rate nudging up to another record high.

“The number of job vacancies has also increased on the quarter, after falling for most of last year.”

Regular earnings also rose above levels seen in early 2008 but pay including bonuses remains below the pre-economic downturn peak.