Lockdown impact is laid bare as another 500,000 workers are put on furlough in just TWO WEEKS – with Rishi Sunak preparing to extend the huge £5bn a month bailout scheme until JUNE
- The furlough rate has increased sharply in the latest ONS survey of businesses
- Another 500,000 people have gone on leave in most recent period, ONS says
- Rishi Sunak is preparing to extend the £5billion a month scheme in his Budget
The impact of lockdown was laid bare today as figures showed another 500,000 people have been put on furlough in just two weeks.
An official survey of businesses found a fifth of the workforce were on leave early this month – equivalent to around 6.5million people and up from 18 per cent a fortnight earlier.
The grim figures come as Rishi Sunak prepares to extend the huge bailout again in the Budget, despite mounting fears about the spiralling bill.
The findings will fuel fears that furlough – estimated to cost the taxpayer around £5billion a month – is masking a looming jobs bloodbath.
It was revealed earlier this week that the unemployment rate has risen to a five-year high of 5.1 per cent, but experts believe it will peak at around 7.5 per cent when support is withdrawn from stricken businesses.
The latest Business Insights and Conditions Survey by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that the proportion of the workforce on furlough is now at its highest level since last summer.
An official survey of businesses found a fifth of the workforce were on leave early this month – equivalent to around 6.5million people and up from 18 per cent a fortnight earlier
Charts produced by the Treasury show how the furlough take-up has changed since the latest lockdown in England
Official figures showed that in the three months to December the rate went up by 0.1 per cent compared to the equivalent period up to November
A quarter of businesses had paused trading during the two weeks to 7 February – with half their staff on furlough.
Separate figures published by the Treasury today showed the number of jobs furloughed has risen from 3.9million at the end of November to 4.7million as of January 31.
Altogether, some 11.2million employments have been supported by the furlough scheme since it launched.
The figures do not tally exactly with the ONS survey as they are collected in different ways, exclude the financial sector, and cover different periods.
The accommodation and food services sector had the highest take-up of furlough with 68 per cent of eligible posts covered as of January 21 – 1.15million jobs.
Official figures published earlier this week showed that in the three months to December the unemployment rate went up by 0.1 per cent compared to the equivalent period to November.
The increase – taking the total on the dole queue to 1.74million – came despite the huge bailouts in place to prop up jobs.
Young people have been by far the hardest hit, accounting for the bulk of the overall rise in unemployment since the start of the pandemic. They made up around three fifths of the 700,000 fall in numbers on payroll over the past year.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to extend the massive furlough scheme until June in his Budget next week
ONS figures have underlined that younger people have been hardest by the pandemic. This chart shows cumulative change in the unemployment rate by age groups
However, there were some glimmers of hope, with payrolled employees and vacancies increasing slightly month on month.
Furlough is currently due to stop at the end of April, having been implemented during the spring outbreak to prevent millions of job losses at stricken businesses.
The Treasury has already spent around £280billion supporting UK plc through the crisis, and Mr Sunak has made clear he wants to start balancing the books.
But Boris Johnson has strongly hinted the support schemes will continue, insisting the Government will continue to ‘put its arms around’ workers ‘throughout the pandemic’.
The ‘roadmap’ unveiled by the PM on Monday includes four stages which last until June 21 – suggesting support will go on at least that long.
Mr Johnson has dismissed Tory calls to speed up the schedule despite the fast vaccination drive and fears over the economic fallout.
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