The number of people claiming Universal Credit in the north-east has risen once more as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to take its toll.
More than 30,000 people from across Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire claimed the benefit over a four-week period up to August 13.
The figures have been released by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
Of those who claimed, 16,768 live within the Aberdeen City Council area.
The number of people claiming in the city is up by around 4% from 16,098 the previous month.
In Aberdeenshire, there were 13,753 claims in the period covered, up nearly 3% from 13,382 the previous month.
North-east Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald called for the UK Government to extend the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – otherwise known as furlough – to protect jobs from the impact of the pandemic.
The scheme was extended over the summer months to run until October and with pandemic restrictions tightening up again there are concerns more people are at risk of losing their jobs.
He said: “These figures continue to go up from month to month, and the worry must be that they will go up even more dramatically when the furlough scheme comes to an end.
“We need to see the extension of furlough to protect vulnerable jobs beyond the end of October, and real efforts by government at every level to protect employment over the coming winter.”
The number of claimants is more than double the figure recorded in March – just before the coronavirus lockdown began.
In March, there were less than 15,000 claimants in the north-east.
However, since the pandemic took hold, the number of people relying on Universal Credit has risen each month, with the exception of the period between May and June which coincided with the UK lockdown coming to an end.
The number of claims over that four week period dropped to 8,025 in the city and 6,146 in Aberdeenshire.
However, they had risen again the following month with 16, 098 claimants in July and 13,382 in Aberdeenshire.
And the number of people claiming is now more than double the pre-lockdown figure.
The UK Government’s minister for welfare delivery Will Quince said: “Universal Credit is a vital safety net for those who need it. It has stood up to the toughest of tests and supported millions through the pandemic, with 90% of people receiving their payment in full and on time.
“Now, we are doubling the number of work coaches to ensure that everyone gets the individual tailored support that they need. This is a key part of our Plan for Jobs, designed to get Britain back into work safely.”