Cumbria may have been more vulnerable than other parts of the country to the economic impact of coronavirus, a business leader has warned.

Jo Lappin, chief executive of Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership, presented concerning statistics to Carlisle City Council's economic growth scrutiny panel yesterday which showed that the county's economy had shrunk by nearly 21 per cent from March to May compared with December to February.

The UK's economy shrank, she said, by just over 19 per cent in the same period.

It was also revealed that the LEP believes 22 per cent of the county's jobs are in the category at most risk from the pandemic, compared to 18 per cent nationally.

"We've clearly been talking to Government economists and national economists and their assessment is that potentially Cumbria's economy is more vulnerable than others to the impact of the pandemic," Mrs Lappin said. "Sadly, that has been borne out in practice."

The county was also said to have seen "significant rises" in unemployment.

Mrs Lappin added: "You'll see in Carlisle the rate of unemployment from March and between March and June basically doubled in several months.

"What we actually saw in different parts of Cumbria – and this is very much about the way that the structure of Cumbria's economy works – was for instance in the Lake District National Park area a 472 per cent increase in unemployment in basically a few months, so some serious impacts.

"The impacts have been felt worse clearly in areas that are heavily reliant on the visitor economy."

Mrs Lappin said Eden and South Lakeland have seen the highest levels of furloughed workers in the country since the Government's job retention scheme was introduced at 30 and 31 per cent of their respective workforces, compared to 26 per cent in Carlisle and 22 per cent across England.

The data has led the LEP to assume a three-year recovery period will be needed.

However, Mrs Lappin stressed the full impact on the economy would not be known until the end of October when the furlough scheme is due to wind up.

She said what happened to the jobs of people leaving the scheme then may make the difference between forecast unemployment levels returning to about four per cent by 2022 in the best case scenario or by 2025 in the worst.