Northern Ireland furlough figure cut in half inside two months

Customers returning to indoor hospitality at D&G's Bistro Cafe at Smithfield Market in Belfast at the end of May. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire.

THE north’s furlough figure has been slashed in half in just two months, new figures from HMRC show.

The number of Northern Ireland registered jobs on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme dropped to 44,000 as of June 30, with fully furloughed jobs reduced to 21,700.

Some 22,300 people were working in some form via a flexible furlough arrangement at the end of June.

The easing of Covid-19 restrictions in Northern Ireland contributed to around 10,000 retail and hospitality jobs coming off the scheme last month.

However, both sectors still accounted for just under 15,000 furloughed jobs as of June 30.

The 92,900 jobs registered under the UK Government scheme back on April 30 was cut to 59,700 at the end of May as non-essential retail and the hospitality industry pulled up the shutters.

The latest data from HMRC shows a further 15,700 jobs in total taken off the scheme in June, meaning a 52.6 per cent reduction inside two months.

The next data release by HMRC is expected to contain further sharp reductions in the numbers, with the UK Government cutting its 80 per cent contribution to 70 per cent on July 1.

Employers, who have been contributing 10 per cent of furloughed wages since the start of July, will be required to increase their input to 20 per cent from this weekend.

The Government contribution will drop to 60 per cent on August 1, with the scheme being completely wound down at the end of September.

The SDLP’s economic spokesperson, Sinéad McLaughlin, yesterday criticised the UK Government for its response to calls for the furlough scheme to be extended for the hard hit aerospace sector.

According to HMRC, some 6,600 manufacturing jobs were still furloughed in the north on June 30, many of them thought to be in the aerospace sector.

Fewer than 300 manufacturing jobs came off furlough during June.

The Foyle MLA said: “I met with Thompson Aerospace’s trade union representatives last month, who explained to me that while the company has a strong order book, the pandemic means a delay in order fulfilment.

“The result is that jobs are at risk unless furlough can be extended. This sector has already experienced huge job losses during the pandemic and without action we could see the loss of hundreds more well-paying jobs, which are scarce enough as it is.”

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