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Furlough number at record low in final month

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Written by: Emma Lunn
04/11/2021
The number of people on furlough fell to a record low during the last month of the scheme, according to figures from HMRC.

Statistics show a further 210,000 employees came off the scheme in September – and around half of the 1.1 million people still being supported were on flexible furlough and working some of their hours. Since the end of April, as restrictions started to ease, 2.4 million people have come off furlough as the economy has reopened.

Insolvency Service data also showed that redundancy notifications remained low throughout September.

Rishi Sunak, chancellor of the exchequer, said: “Our unprecedented furlough scheme helped people when they needed it most. And as a result of our action the economy is growing, more employees are on payrolls than ever before and unemployment has fallen for 8 months in a row.

“We are now investing billions building a stronger economy of higher wages, higher skills and rising productivity – and our Plan for Jobs will continue to deliver the opportunities people need to get ahead.”

However, some critics were not so positive about the latest furlough figures.

Sarah Coles, senior personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “When the furlough scheme shut down in September, the government pulled the rug out from under 1.14 million people. And while early redundancy figures don’t show a spike, thousands of these people won’t show up in these figures.

“There was some relief when early insolvency service figures showed no big hike in the number of employers who planned to make large numbers of redundancies as the scheme drew to a close. However, not every job loss will show up in these figures, including anyone whose employer is letting fewer than 20 people go. It means those who work for smaller companies won’t appear in the figures, and these are the employers who had the highest levels of furlough when the scheme ended.

“Meanwhile, those who were relying on the scheme were particularly likely to find it difficult to find work if they lost their jobs. Older people are at risk, and the proportion of furlough rises with age. This is particularly worrying, because not only do older people take longer to return to the workforce on average, but they tend to take a bigger hit to their pay when they do so, compared to their younger counterparts.”

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