Opportunity Sheffield Labour Market Update August 2020

The latest claimant count and other labour market figures were published on NOMIS on 11th August.  The claimant count, having surged upwards in March, April and May levelled off in June and July (latest data) whilst data from the Annual Population Survey for the year to March is yet to show the effects of the Covid 19 pandemic on economic activity rates, employment rates, or unemployment.

Claimant Count

The claimant count reports the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance plus those who claim Universal Credit and are required to seek work and be available for work.  It replaces the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance as the headline indicator of the number of people claiming benefits principally for the reason of being unemployed.

The claimant count in Sheffield more than doubled between February and May 2020 from 11,380 to 22,875, fell slightly in June to 22,515 and rose again in July to 23,150.

There is little evidence to date based on this relatively simple measure, of disproportionate impacts of Covid 19 on different age groups, or on men and women.

The increase in claimant numbers impacted on all age groups across the city, more than doubling for those aged 16-24 and 25-49 and increasing by almost 90% for the over 50’s.

In Sheffield, men make up around 62% of all claimants and women around 38%.  This proportion has remained largely constant over the past year.  In July 2020 there were 14,420 male and 8,735 female claimants in Sheffield, increases of 134.7% and 133.2% respectively since July 2019 and of 108.5% and 107.5% respectively since January 2020.

Claimant Count Rate

The claimant count rate (the proportion of residents aged 16+ who are claiming) also doubled.  Whilst the increase in claimant numbers was extreme for all age groups, the sharpest rise in the rate was for people aged 25 to 49.

Variations Across Sheffield

There are wide variations in the numbers of people claiming benefits because they are out of work in different parts of Sheffield.  Measured at electoral ward level, Burngreave ward the area with the highest number of claimants has almost exactly 10 times as many people claiming as Fulwood ward, the area with the lowest number.

Every ward in the city has seen claimant numbers increase by at least 68% since January 2020, with Burngreave showing the largest numerical increase of 1,390 (136%) over the six month period. 

The charts below show the numbers of claimants in each ward, the clamant count rate, the increase in claimant numbers since January 2020 and the percentage increase over the same period.

The 6 wards that have the highest numbers of claimants also have the greatest concentration of claimants, i.e. the greatest proportion of the working age population included in the claimant count.  The proportion of the working age population claiming in Burngreave, the ward with the highest claimant rate, is almost 8 times that of Fulwood which has the lowest rate and more than double the city average of 6.0%.

Whilst the wards with the largest numbers of claimants have experienced the greatest numerical increase in claimant numbers, they haven’t seen the greatest relative (percentage) increases. 

Burngreave (+1,390), Darnall (+845), Manor and Castle (+685), Nether Edge and Sharrow (+645) and Gleadless Valley (+580) had the largest increases in claimant numbers, but in percentage terms, wards with lower claimant numbers saw their claimant count grow more quickly.  Ecclesall, Dore and Totley, Fulwood, Crookes and Crosspool and Graves Park wards experienced the greatest percentage increases despite having the smallest numbers of claimants, in both in January and in July. This is primarily a result of the very low claimant numbers in those wards at the start of the period.

Labour Demand

The 2 charts below compare vacancies advertised in June and July 2019 with those advertised over the same period in 2020[1].  The impact of Covid 19 on demand and the types of jobs recruited to is clear; 7,328 vacancies were advertised in June July 2019, 5,463 were advertised over the same period in 2020 and nurses aare now the most recruited to occupation.

The Annual Population Survey

The Annual Population Survey (APS) is a rolling survey that provides one of the main sources of information about the labour market and economic activity of the UK population.

A person of working age in Sheffield is slightly more likely to be employed than people of the same age range across the City Region, but slightly less likely to be employed than the national (England) average. The economic activity rate in Sheffield is the same as that across the City Region, but below the national average by around 3% whilst unemployment rates are notably higher across the City Region than in Sheffield or nationally.

The APS also provides analysis of the same labour market measures as reflected in ethnic minority communities (non white British).  The survey highlights the level of disadvantage faced by members of ethnic minority communities in the labour market relative to the population as a whole.  In Sheffield, the City Region and nationally, working age members of ethnic minority communities are less likely to be economically active, less likely to be employed and more likely to be unemployed than the working age population as a whole.


The working age population of Sheffield is notably more highly qualified than regional and national averages at NVQ level 2 and above, level 3 and above and level 4 and above. There are also fewer people without qualifications.  The high proportions of Sheffield residents with higher level (Level 3+) qualifications is attributable in part to the presence of 2 large and successful universities in the city, but also reflects the large numbers of managerial, professional, and associate professional and technical jobs in the city which make up 54.5% of the workforce.

[1] Source Labour Insight, copyright Burning Glass