Furlough numbers at a record low in September
The number of people on furlough fell to a record low during its last month of operation with a further 210,000 coming off the scheme according to the latest figures
Half of the 1.1m people still on the Coronavirus job retention scheme (CJRS) at the end of September were on a flexible furlough arrangement. The figures show that the cost of the furlough scheme until 30 September hit £70bn.
Since the end of April, as restrictions started to ease nearly 2.4m people left the scheme and in September the Office National Statistics estimated that between 900,000 and 1.4m employees were furloughed in late September, up to 700,000 of them full-time.
The furlough scheme officially ended on 30 September 2021 and data collected by the recruitment website Indeed revealed that the end of the support did not lead to a surge of jobseekers in October which was originally predicted.
The survey of 5,000 working age people, conducted in mid-October showed that the proportion of people who said they were ‘actively looking, urgently’ for a job rose to 7.7% of the workforce in October from 7% in September and 6.8% in July when Indeed started the survey. The number of people ‘actively looking, not urgently’ for a new job rose to 17.9% from 17.3%.
The figures from Indeed also showed that the percentage of job postings in the UK rose by only 6% from 28.7% on 30 September to 34.7% on 22 October.
Indeed said the increase in active job seekers between October and September was not ‘statistically significant’.
Indeed saw the strongest improvement in aviation with job postings in that category now just 10% off the pre-pandemic baseline, having seen a 38% improvement since 24 September. Sports, loading and stocking, veterinary, human resources, and real estate also saw notable gains in the latest four-week period.
The north east continued to lead the regional recovery, with job postings 69% above the pre-pandemic level. Northern Ireland is the weakest performer at 18%, having been overtaken by London at 22%.
Carolyn Brown, head of client legal service, RSM UK said: ‘Encouragingly advance notifications to Government by employers planning more than 20 redundancies have not materialised with many sectors saying that they made the redundancies they needed months ago.
However, the proportion of the larger employers (with 250 or more jobs) using the CJRS reduced from 58% in February 2021 to 22% at the end of September 2021, and we know the scheme has been primarily supporting smaller employers. Capturing redundancies under 20 is more difficult and the ONS statistics on changes to the pattern of employment after September will not be with us for a few weeks yet.
‘In addition, if the Employment Tribunal system sees an uptick of age discrimination, disability discrimination and unfair dismissal awards from previously furloughed employees terminated by their employers, then we may start to see a fuller picture of what happened to the furloughed employees after the scheme ended.
‘Employers will now need a twin focus between, on the one hand, protecting themselves from these claims from their, now, ex-employees and, retaining through their own careful furlough claims’ reviews, the valuable furlough funds they have received as HMRC’s proactively audits and reviews claims.’
In response to the official figures, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: ‘Our unprecedented furlough scheme helped people when they needed it most. And as a result of our action, the economy is growing, more employees are on payrolls than ever before and unemployment has fallen for eight months in a row.
‘We are now investing billions building a stronger economy of higher wages, higher skills, and rising productivity, and our Plan for Jobs will continue to deliver the opportunities people need to get ahead.’
Last week, government budget forecasters predicted unemployment would rise to 1.8m people or 5.25% of the workforce in the final quarter of this year, up from 4.5% in the three months to August.