HMRC: 36,000 still furloughed in Northern Ireland at the end of July

The number of furloughed hospitality workers on dropped by 1,850 (25 per cent) to 5,520 during July. Picture by Hugh Russell.

JUST over 36,000 people in the north were still on furlough at the end of July as the scheme started to wind down, the latest figures from HMRC show.

Some 8,300 people came off the UK Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme during July, with the biggest shift in Northern Ireland recorded by the hospitality and manufacturing sectors.

July was the first month that employers had to pay 10 per cent of the salaries of their furloughed workers, giving them an incentive to bring staff back, or end their employment.

This went up again to 20 per cent for August and September.

At the end of this month the scheme will come to a complete end.

Half (18,000) of those recorded as furloughed in Northern Ireland on July 31 2021 were registered as fully furloughed, with the remainder operating on a flexible basis, with employees working some of their hours.

The number of hospitality workers on furlough dropped by 1,850 (25 per cent) to 5,520 between June 30 and July 31, according to HMRC’s provisional data.

One-in-four (1,360) hospitality workers on furlough in Northern Ireland at the end of July were in the Belfast City Council area.

Manufacturing saw a 23 per cent drop to 5,140, with 1,550 workers coming off furlough during the month.

Dispute 1,210 retail workers coming off furlough during July, the sector still accounted for 6,420 employments registered under the scheme, accounting for almost one-in-five of all furloughed employments (18 per cent).

The Belfast City Council area remained the district with the highest number of furloughed workers (6,650), followed by Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon (4,200) and Newry, Mourne and Down (3,890).

July did see a significant shift for the north's hard hit arts and recreation sector.

Some 890 people in the sector came off the scheme during the month, taking the total down to 1,490.

Live music resumed in Northern Ireland on July 5, while theatres and concert venues were given the nod to reopen from July 27.

The furlough scheme dropped to 1.6 million employments UK-wide at the end of July, the lowest since the pandemic started.

HMRC said 340,000 people in total moved off furlough during the month.

But Charlie McCurdy, an economist at the Resolution Foundation think-tank, said: "The number of people coming off furlough over the summer has slowed to a trickle, as some firms and sectors - notably overseas tourism - struggle to return to pre-pandemic levels of activity.

"As a result, up to a million employees could still be on furlough when the scheme closes at the end of this month.

"While we expect most of these staff to return to their previous roles, a significant number will not, and we could see a fresh rise in unemployment this autumn.

"Given these circumstances, now is not the right time to cut Universal Credit by £20 a week. The Government must change course."

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