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Furlough figures stabilise at 4.7 million in February

Written by: Emma Lunn
HMRC has released figures for the number of people who were furloughed from their jobs in February.

The figure currently stands at 4.7 million on furlough, but final levels are expected to be broadly similar to January (4.9 million) once all claims and amendments for February have been received.

As of 31 January, 41% of employers had staff furloughed. Provisional estimates show that this remained the same at 28 February. About 15% of jobs were furloughed as of 28 February, but final figures are expected to show a take-up rate of 16% when all claims and amendments for February have been received.

Since the start of the furlough scheme a cumulative total of 11.4 million jobs have been supported by the Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme at various times.

About 69% of employees in the accommodation and food services sector were furloughed as of 28 February.

The beverage serving activities sector has the largest furlough take up rates of all the sectors, with 78% of jobs on furlough in February. The hotel and similar accommodation sector had 69% of positions furloughed last month.

Those aged 18 to 24, or 65 and over, were most likely to be furloughed, but the take-up rate was highest among the under-18-year-olds. More women were furloughed than men (2.34m women and 2.14m men). Initially the number of women furloughed was lower, but they overtook men in July.

Sarah Coles, personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “Steady furlough figures are good news in disguise. We might look forward to the day when furloughed jobs transform into work, as the economy opens up, but for now, no news is excellent news.

“It’s a sign that as we neared two months in lockdown, those businesses that were still open, weren’t having to furlough lots of new people. Meanwhile, those that had already furloughed staff decided they were getting enough support from the government for long enough to be able to keep them on until business picks up again.

“The extension of the furlough scheme has been instrumental in building confidence. With furlough at 80%, employers who are unsure about the future have nothing to lose by keeping staff on until at least the end of June. At that point, tapering means they will have to pay a growing proportion of salaries, but there will be some help in place until September. It means that in order to keep people on, employers only have to have confidence that life will be better in six months’ time.”

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