Thousands in Preston still furloughed when scheme ended

More than three out of every 100 workers in the city were still on Government scheme when it closed

By Mike Hill
Friday, 12th November 2021, 12:30 pm

Thousands of people in Preston were still on furlough when the scheme closed at the end of September.

They were among more than 1m workers being supported across the UK when the scheme wrapped up, and the Institute for Fiscal Studies said what happens to them is "critical" for the economy.

The latest data from HM Revenue and Customs shows 2,200 jobs held by workers living in Preston were furloughed as of September 30 – 3.5 per cent of all that were eligible.

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Thousands of Preston people on furlough when scheme ended

That was 400 fewer than the number on the scheme a month previously.

And the furlough rate in Preston was below the average across the UK, of four per cent.

Around 22,800 jobs have been furloughed in the area at various times since the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme began in March 2020, the figures show.

They are among 11.7m jobs across the UK to have received wage support from the Government at some point, though the scheme was being used less as coronavirus restrictions eased.

At the end of September, the CJRS was supporting 1.1m jobs – the lowest number since March 22 last year.

The Treasury said around half of those still being supported were already working some of their hours.

From August 1, employers had to contribute 20 per cent of employees’ wages up to £625, with the Government contributing 60 per cent, up to £1,875.

Separate figures from the Office for National Statistics estimate 87 per cent of furlough workers have since returned to work, three per cent were made permanently redundant and three per cent voluntarily left their role.

Tom Waters, senior research economist at the IFS, said: "Early statistics don’t suggest any significant increase in redundancies, suggesting that many employees will be rehired into their old jobs.

"With unemployment barely exceeding five per cent at any point since the crisis began, we can safely say that the furlough scheme has prevented a substantial amount of job loss – but it has come with a huge price tag, at a total cost of almost £70bn.”

Across the UK, men were slightly more likely to be on furlough than women at the end of September.

And the same was true in Preston, with four per cent of eligible jobs held by men on the scheme, compared to three per cent% for women.

Retail workers were the most likely to be furloughed nationally when the scheme ended (15 per cent of all jobs), followed by those in the accommodation and food services sector (14 per cent).

In Preston, the retail sector was the most reliant on the CJRS at this time, making up 23 per cent of all furloughed jobs.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said furlough helped people "when they needed it most", while the Government's Plan for Jobs will deliver more opportunities going forward.

He added: "As a result of our action the economy is growing, more employees are on payrolls than ever before and unemployment has fallen for eight months in a row."