The impact of the COVID pandemic on the region has been laid bare as new figures show the unemployment rate more than doubled in the space of 10 months.

Between March 2020 and January 2021, the overall unemployment claimant count in Perth and Kinross rose by 119 per cent - up 2220 individuals - with the unemployment rate rising from two per cent to 4.4 per cent.

The 18-­24 age group saw an even higher increase, going from 345 (3.3 per cent) individuals to 825 (7.9 per cent) - an overall rise of around 139 per cent.

The worrying figures were revealed at a full council meeting on March 31 during discussions over PKC’s Economic Wellbeing Plan.

The plan, co-­produced by a number of enterprise support network organisations, aims to assist economic recovery as a result of the impact of COVID-­19.

The plan summarises the progress in supporting businesses and individuals as well as the economic impact on the local economy to date and sets out provisional strategies for the next few years.

Up until March 22, over 6200 local businesses had received grants totalling over £55.7 million to cope with the coronavirus crisis.

Perth and Kinross Council leader Murray Lyle said the impact of the pandemic has seen a dramatic rise in unemployment to levels “not experienced in Perth and Kinross for more than 20 years”.

“The final impact of the COVID pandemic on our local economy is not yet fully known, and won’t be known, for some time,” continued the Strathallan councillor.

“The 20-year Regional Economic Strategy underpinning the Tay Cities Deal sets out our long-term objective to support the transition to higher skilled, better paid jobs in a range of sectors including those based on new technologies.

“However, without immediate action we may find ourselves in an even more difficult place.

“I am therefore pleased that quickly after the outbreak of the pandemic, key economic development partners came together to form a Business Task Force, and to pool their expertise to agree what would be needed to get us through and beyond COVID.

“In doing so, this ensures that opportunities would be available to everyone in our communities with the potential to contribute to sustainable economic growth.

“The Perth and Kinross Economic Wellbeing Plan will support our people, our businesses and our places over the next three years.

“It’s a bold and ambitious action plan based on what we know now.

“And it will need to be reviewed and adapted as our understanding of the impact of COVID increases.

He added: “The plan sets out what we plan to do over the next three years by re-prioritising our existing economic development budget and securing new resources, including the £1.525m made available in the council’s 2021/22 revenue budget.

“Further resources will be identified to support the plan as and when we are able to, and officers will also pursue external funding opportunities as and when they arise.

“The Economic Wellbeing Plan is part of the Perth and Kinross Offer demonstrating that everyone has something to offer and that by working together more can be achieved.”