The British government received 1.8m Universal Credit benefits claims between 16 March and the end of April, work and pensions minister Therese Coffey said today.
Universal Credit is paid to people in work as well as those who have lost their jobs.
Coffey said the volume of claims was six times the normal rate and that in one week the increase had been tenfold.
She told MPs that 8,000 Department of Work and Pensions staff had been redeployed to process the claims.
Coffey said there have been more than 250,000 claims for Jobseeker’s Allowance and more than 20,000 claims for Employment Support Allowance.
“We’ve also issued almost 700,000 advances to claimants who felt that they could not wait for their routine payment and the vast majority of these claimants received money within 72 hours,” she said.
Separately, HMRC said today that more than a fifth of British workers have been furloughed with £8bn claimed from the government to pay staff wages during the crisis.
Under the coronavirus job retention scheme employers can furlough staff who will be paid 80 per cent of their salary up to £2,500 a month by the government.
They cannot work for their companies during this period.
HMRC said on Twitter that 6.3m workers from 800,000 employers had been furloughed, citing figures up to midnight on Sunday.
That accounts for 23 per cent of Britain’s 27.9m employees, according to the most recent labour market data.
The scheme is due to run until the end of June and is likely to cost the public finances around £39bn, based on an assumption that 30 per cent of employees are enrolled.