Covid-19: Furlough scheme reaches a quarter of a million in Northern Ireland

Some 24,100 construction workers have been furloughed in the north since March.
Some 24,100 construction workers have been furloughed in the north since March. Some 24,100 construction workers have been furloughed in the north since March.

THE number of jobs furloughed in the north under the UK Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has reached a quarter of a million, according to the latest official data.

HMRC said the total number of claims under the scheme hit 249,600 by July 31. The figure includes all claims made under the scheme since March, including those who have now returned to work.

HMRC said claims under the Self Employment Income Support Scheme reached 78,000 in Northern Ireland by end of July, with £223m paid out. Payments averaged out at £2,900.

According to the NI Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA), the number of people in employment in Northern Ireland before the lockdown stood at 877,000.

The latest data means that 37.4 per cent (327,600) of all jobs in the north have been partly subsidized by the UK Treasury since March.

HMRC confirmed that around half all workers furloughed in Northern Ireland worked in either retail, hospitality, manufacturing or construction.

Reatil accounted for the highest number of claims (56,200) followed by manufacturing (42,400), accommodation/food services (41,500) and construction (24,100).

Four-in-five (81) per cent of all accommodation and food services workers in the north have been furloughed at some point since March.

The Mid Ulster parliamentary continues to hold one of the highest furlough rates in the UK, with 38 per cent of the workforce accounted for.

UK-wide, HMRC confirmed yesterday that the number of furloughed workers had fallen from a peak to 8.9 million in early May to 6.8 million at the end of June.

The Job Retention Scheme is being wound down, and will end in October, raising fears of an increase in job losses.

The Resolution Foundation said yesterday that rather than ending the scheme altogether, or maintaining it in its current form after October, the UK Chancellor should focus the scheme on hardest-hit sectors and make sure it subsidises the wages of those returning to work, rather than staying off.

Nye Cominetti, senior economist at the think tank, said: "The fact that 6.8 million workers were still furloughed at the end of June, with hard-hit sectors such as hospitality still operating well below capacity, highlights the scale of redundancy risks workers face as the scheme is wound down by the end of October.

"The immediate priority for the Chancellor should be to bring forward further targeted support to these sectors.

"Otherwise, the significant policy success of the retention scheme will be followed by a big post-furloughing unemployment spike this autumn."