Business

Furlough: 34,000 came off scheme in Northern Ireland during May

Just under 9,000 hospitality jobs came off the furlough scheme in the north during May, according to HMRC. Picture by Hugh Russell.

JUST over 34,000 people came off furlough in Northern Ireland during the month of May following the easing of Covid-19 restrictions.

A total of 58,600 employments were registered under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme on May 31, compared to 92,900, the latest data from HMRC has shown.

It's the lowest total for the north since the scheme was introduced by the UK Government at the start of the first lockdown in 2020.

The sharp drop in furloughed jobs coincided with the easing of lockdown restrictions.

Just under 10,000 retail workers came off the scheme in May, with 8,240 fewer jobs registered in the accommodation and food services sector.

Non-essential retail and outdoor hospitality resumed in the north on April 30.

The most significant drop in furloughed jobs came on May 1, when 21,500 people came off the scheme.

A further 12,800 dropped off throughout the month ahead of the reopening on indoor hospitality on May 24.

HMRC's figure reveal 30,400 people were still fully furloughed in Northern Ireland on May 31, with 28,200 partially furloughed.

The hospitality and retail sectors still accounted for 25,000 furloughed posts as of May 31.

The figure is expected to decline sharply again from July 1, with employers now expected to incur more costs for furloughing workers.

Firms will need to pick up 10 per cent of their furloughed workers' pay in July, rising to 20 per cent in August and September before the scheme is removed entirely.

It comes as Northern Ireland's largest lender Danske Bank predicted a lower unemployment rate in 2021 than previously forecast due to the improving performance of the economy.

Upgrading its economic growth forecast for Northern Ireland to 6.2 per cent, the bank said unemployment may hit just 4.2 per cent in 2021, rising to 4.6 per cent.

But unions yesterday called on the UK Government to extend the scheme until at least spring 2022, warning that ending it too early could kill any recovery before it even starts.

Some 6,890 manufacturing jobs were still furloughed in Northern Ireland on May 31, many of them in the hard-hit aerospace sector.

Steve Turner, assistant general secretary of the Unite union, said: "Industries such as aviation, automotive and hospitality are still on the ropes, hit hard by repeated lockdowns, supply chain disruption and inconsistent government decisions, which is why we have always argued that the UK furlough scheme needs to match those of our competitor countries and be continued until at least the spring of 2022.”

Meanwhile, HMRC said 53,000 self-employed people in the north secured a grant under the latest tranche of the Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) as of June 6.

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