The latest unemployment figures released on Tuesday, which show the number of people claiming out of work benefits in the Scottish Borders and remains significantly up on this time last year, are a matter of “huge concern”, according to South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth.

In October 2020, 3,515 people claimed out of work benefits in the region, slightly down on September (3,640).

However, the picture is dramatically different when compared with the same time last year, where the figure stood at 1,695 in October 2019.

The October 2020 figure represents 5.18 per cent of the working age population claiming out of work benefits.

Colin Smyth said: “The easing of lockdown in the summer where some people returned to work, but most remained on furlough seems to have put a temporary hold on further rises in unemployment during the early autumn months.

“But sadly, it’s widely recognised that this is the calm before the storm and the full impact of coronavirus on employment as further restrictions are enforced, has yet to be felt.

“The level of unemployment is already almost twice that of a year ago, which is still a huge concern. All the projections are that unemployment levels will be dramatically higher over the next six to nine months and we are set for a level of joblessness we’ve not seen since the ‘90s.

“As people in the Scottish Borders struggle to adjust to yet more lockdowns and regulation changes which look set to continue indefinitely, these figures are really worrying. But what we can’t forget is that behind the numbers are individuals who have lost their jobs and families worried about how to pay the bills.”

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