Over 4,000 on furlough when the scheme closed, new figures show

4,600 jobs in Belfast were furloughed as of September 30
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Thousands of people in Belfast were still on furlough when the scheme closed at the end of September, new figures show.

They were among more than 1 million 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.

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The latest data from HM Revenue and Customs shows 4,600 jobs held by workers living in Belfast were furloughed as of September 30 – 3.3% of all that were eligible.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said furlough helped people "when they needed it most"Chancellor Rishi Sunak said furlough helped people "when they needed it most"
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said furlough helped people "when they needed it most"

That was 800 fewer than the number on the scheme a month previously.

The furlough rate in Belfast was below the average across the UK, of 4%.

Around 51,200 jobs have been furloughed in the area at various times since the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme began in March 2020, the figures show.

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They are among 11.7 million 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 1.1 million 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% of employees’ wages up to £625, with the Government contributing 60%, up to £1,875.

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Separate figures from the Office for National Statistics estimate 87% of furlough workers have since returned to work, 3% were made permanently redundant and 3% 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 5% 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 £70 billion.”

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

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And the same was true in Belfast, with 3.6% of eligible jobs held by men on the scheme, compared to 3.1% for women.

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

In Belfast, the hospitality sector was the most reliant on the CJRS at this time, making up 19% of all the 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.

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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.”

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