Unemployment in Cumbria has risen for the sixth consecutive month.

According to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 6,690 people claimed Jobseeker’s Allowance or received support through Universal Credit to seek work in December – up 40 compared to the revised figure of 6,650 for November.

Although less than a quarter of the 205 rise reported between October and November – the second biggest during the year – the figures mean Cumbria suffered a continuous rise in unemployment during the entire second half of 2019.

It was a mixed bag for Cumbria’s six districts in December.

Allerdale saw the biggest increase, with 40 new claims made, taking the total to 1,580 and representing 2.7 per cent of the working population.

Barrow saw 10 new claims, taking the unemployment total to 1,270 and representing 3.1 per cent of the working age population.

South Lakeland and Eden also witnesses a rise of 10, taking their totals to 610 (1 per cent) and 440 (1.4 per cent) respectively.

Carlisle saw a drop of 25, taking its overall unemployment figure to 1,575 (2.4 per cent), while Copeland saw five less claims made, taking its total to 1,215 (2.9 per cent).

Copeland remains on a par with the national unemployment average of 2.9 per cent, with Barrow remaining the only Cumbrian district above it.

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 three or so years.

Nationally, the number of people who are claiming unemployment benefit dropped by 7,000 to just below 1.31 million in the three months to November, according to the ONS.

The drop takes unemployment to its lowest level since December 1974.

The number of vacant jobs fell by 11,000 during the same period to 805,000 – 49,000 fewer than the same period a year earlier.

The growth in average weekly earnings stalled, remaining unchanged at 3.2 per cent in November.

ONS’ head of labour market and households David Freeman said: “The employment rate is at a new record high, with over two-thirds of the growth in people in work in the last year coming from women working full-time.

“Self-employment has also been growing strongly, and the number of people working for themselves has now passed five million for the first time ever.

“While pay growth has eased since last summer, with inflation remaining subdued, earnings are continuing to increase in real terms.”

Minister for employment Mims Davies added: “With unemployment at its lowest since the 1970s, our jobcentres go beyond getting people into work – they are about community and progression. Reaching out to more people and supporting those in work to get ahead.

“This, coupled with business confidence turning a corner, is paving the way for an even stronger jobs market in 2020.”