The official data published this week on the jobs market indicates the unprecedented scale of the impact of the coronavirus on the economy. In the Folkestone and Hythe constituency area, 11,800 jobs had been furloughed through the Government's Job Retention Scheme, the equivalent to around 17% of the population aged from 16 to 64. Nationally, the average number of workers that have been furloughed is 21%. Further to this, locally 4,700 claims were made to the Self Employment Income Support scheme, equivalent to 71% of the potentially eligible population.
However, whilst these schemes have been designed to help save jobs, many more people are now requiring some assistance from Universal Credit or the Jobseekers Allowance. There were 5,050 actual claimants in the Folkestone and Hythe constituency in May 2020, which was 7.3% of the population aged from 16 to 64. The equivalent UK claimant rate was 6.4%. This was 680 higher than April 2020 and 2,595 higher than March 2020, before the UK lockdown began. We would have to expect, that as the furlough scheme is phased out over the next few months, that these claimant counts will rise further, unless there is a substantial improvement in the level of economic activity. Those are the stark facts of the matter. The pandemic has required a massive intervention into our way of life in order to control the spread of the virus, and with that has come a programme of government financial support the like of which we have never known before.
This week we have also seen an important step on the road back, with more shops re-opening. I hope that we will soon see more bars, cafes and restaurants being able to trade, particularly those with access to outdoor spaces for customers. I am working with Folkestone and Hythe District Council as well to see what more we can do to support local businesses during the recovery from the coronavirus.
Over the last few weeks we have seen protests in the streets of towns and cities around the country. Most of them have been peaceful, but in some cases we have seen violence directed towards the police, and also acts of vandalism conducted against public memorials and statues. People have the right to peaceful protest, but we can never condone the desecration of war memorials that stand to remember those from all backgrounds who gave their lives in the service of others. I was also disgusted to see the image of a man urinating next to the memorial to the police officer, Keith Palmer, who was murdered at the entrance to parliament three years ago, whilst trying to protect it from an armed terrorist. There are clearly some people at the extremes of politics who are seeking to exploit public protest to further their own agendas, and we cannot let that happen. In these difficult times for us all, we need to bring people back together, recognising and acting on genuine grievances, but standing firm in the face of violent aggression.