According to figures released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) last week, 1,890 people were claiming some form of out of work benefits during March 2022.
This was broadly flat compared to the February figure of 1,895, but it remains nearly double the number who were unemployed before the Covid pandemic began.
It is now exactly two years since the last pre-pandemic month of March 2020, when just 1,130 people were claiming out-of-work benefits. It was April 2020 which saw the level soar to 2,325 claimants in the area.
“I am surprised that it is still higher than it was pre-pandemic, as we are seeing such a shortage of candidates in all areas that I would have expected the number of unemployed to be very low at the moment,” Neil Simmons, of local recruitment agency TN Recruits, told the Times.
“With regards to the unemployment figures, I would expect that number to drop given the continued strength in the job market – across all sectors.”
Across the UK workers suffered the biggest fall in their real pay for nearly nine years as the cost-of-living squeeze tightened, according to the ONS.
The government body said regular pay excluding bonuses tumbled 1.8 per cent in the three months to February when taking soaring inflation into account, as measured by the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) – the steepest fall since August to October 2013.
But Tunbridge Wells is bucking that trend.
Mr Simmons said: “Salaries are creeping up at the moment, but this is also partly due to the pressure coming from candidates who are working from home but still on London salaries, so they are not willing to take a drop for a locally based role.
“The rise in living has clearly a knock-on effect with our candidates, although living in a ‘candidate market’ they are faced with a decision to either invest in a new role to increase salary or sit securely in what they know.
“We [as recruiters] are aware of the unemployment changes and the increase in job roles where local companies are expanding and now able to deliver business plans that had to be frozen due to the pandemic.”
The news comes as the Times reported last week of a shortage of trained chefs in the town that has seen nearly 100 vacancies for the role posted on a leading job search website.