New Figures Show Almost 5 Million People On Furlough During January
Furlough claims hit almost 5 million during January
The number of workers on furlough reached almost 5 million during January after the national lockdown forced thousands of businesses to shut.
The latest figures released by HM Revenue and Customs estimated that furlough claims peaked at 4.7m in January, an increase of 800,000 since November.
It means around 16 per cent of all UK jobs are currently on furlough, with the highest rates during December among accomodation and food services staff which saw 65 per cent of employers using the job retention scheme.
The data also found that 18 to 24 year olds were the most likely group to be placed on the scheme with provisional estimates finding 409,700 women and 333,000 men in that age group were furloughed by 31 January.
But HMRC said the "incomplete" figures could rise by up to 3 per cent as furlough claims for the period can be filed by employers up until March.
It means cumulatively that around 11.2 million jobs have been supported by the furlough scheme since the beginning of the pandemic.
Furlough rates were also found to be broadly consistent across the UK during December and January, with London having the highest take up of 17 per cent against a UK average of 16 per cent.
But the data showed the January figures were still down substantially on the peak from the first national lockdown in April 2020 where almost 9 million employees were placed on the scheme.The figures will put further pressure on Chancellor Rishi Sunak ahead of next week's Budget where he is expected to announce a new package of measures aimed at supporting jobs and businesses.
MPs and campaigners have already urged Sunak to extend the scheme throughout the period of the Prime Minister's "roadmap" for lifting lockdown, which will see some businesses, including nightclubs, forced to stay shut until 21 June at the earliest.
Recent figures have found the scheme has cost the Treasury almost £50bn and was set to finish at the end of April.
Questioned on the wage subsidy scheme earlier this week, Boris Johnson refused to confirm whether the furlough support would be extended, but insisted he would "not pull the rug out" from workers and businesses.
Responding to the figures, Charlie McCurdy, reasearcher at the Resolution Foundation, said: "Today's HMRC data shows that the Job Retention Scheme again took the strain during the latest lockdown with an increase of almost a million people on the scheme during January.
"Furlough has once again played a crucial role in protecting incomes and keeping a lid on rising unemployment. But with almost five million workers still on furlough in the most recent data, our biggest labour market challenges may be ahead of, rather than behind, us."
PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe