Cumbria has seen a massive rise in unemployment, with more than 400 claims made in February, according to latest statistics.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), there were 6,280 people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance or Universal Credit last month.

It represents yet another significant rise for the county of 415 new claims, and the fourth consecutive month the figure has grown.

Revised figures for January stood at 5,865, which itself was up 165 on the previous month.

The continued rises are, in the main, due to the on-going switch to the controversial Universal Credit system, which brings together several benefits including income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance and Working Tax Credit.

People can still claim Universal Credit while being in work, typically on limited hours, while others continue to claim the “legacy benefits” of Jobseeker's Allowance. And while all of Cumbria’s Jobcentre Plus offices have moved in to the Universal Credit system, the full roll-out is expected to take another four years.

Despite the impact of the shift to Universal Credit, the ONS figures means that 2.1 per cent of Cumbria’s working age population is recorded as unemployed.

All of Cumbria’s six districts saw a rise in claims made.

The biggest was in Allerdale, the first Cumbrian region to move to Universal Credit. The number of claimants rose by 110 to 1,710, representing 3 per cent of the district’s working age population.

It was closely followed by Carlisle, which saw a 95 increase in claims, taking the total to 1,360 and 2.1 per cent of the area’s working age population.

South Lakeland saw yet another rise. There were 70 more claims recorded, taking the total to 490 but equating to just 0.8 per cent of the working age population.

Copeland saw a rise of 65 to 1,310 (3.1 per cent), while 40 more claims were made in Barrow, taking the total to 1,035 (2.5 per cent).

Eden saw the smallest rise of 35. It takes the total claims to 375 (1.2 per cent).

Yet again, the continued and dramatic rise in Cumbria is in stark contrast to the national picture, with unemployment and the number of those in work at record levels.

According to the ONS unemployment fell between November and January by 35,000 to 1.34 million, which puts the rate below the 4 per cent mark for the first time since the mid-1970s.

Meanwhile, employment grew to the highest levels since records began in 1971 to 32.7 million for the same period.

ONS senior statistician Matt Hughes added that the “so-called economic inactivity rate” was also at a record low of 3.9 per cent – almost half the average for countries in the European Union.