More than one in eight jobs in Buckinghamshire furloughed last month

More than one in eight eligible jobs in Buckinghamshire were furloughed at the end of December, new figures show.
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The Resolution Foundation think-tank say furloughing has helped protect incomes during the coronavirus pandemic, but warned its expected end in just three months could trigger a wave of job losses across the UK.

Figures from HM Revenue and Customs show around 32,600 jobs were furloughed in Buckinghamshire as of December 31 – 13% of all that were eligible.

This was the same number at the end of November and was the fourth highest figure of the last six months of 2020.

Women in Buckinghamshire were slightly more likely to be furloughed than men, with a take-up rate of 13%, compared to 12%.

Jobs at firms which are unable to operate or have no work for their employees because of coronavirus are eligible for furlough pay from the Government – with workers currently getting 80% of their wages, up to £2,500 per month.

Across the UK, 3.8 million jobs were furloughed as of December 31, down slightly from 3.9 million a month before, but well above the 2.4 million of October 31.

With Chancellor Rishi Sunak's scheme set to end on April 30, the Resolution Foundation said the latest figures show how vital it has been in holding "back the tide of job losses" during the pandemic.

Charlie McCurdy, a researcher at the think-tank, said: “The Job Retention Scheme has been a living standards lifeline for millions of workers, with three-in-ten private sector workers furloughed at the peak of the first lockdown.

“The winding up of the scheme in just three months’ time is expected to cause a fresh wave of unemployment.

"It’s vital therefore that the Chancellor ensures a flexible transition out of the scheme, in order to avoid millions of workers simply moving from furlough straight into unemployment.”

Rates of furlough nationally were highest for those aged under 18, with a third of eligible jobs held by teenagers on the scheme at the end of 2020.

As is the case across the UK, the industry with the most jobs furloughed in the South East is hospitality, with 131,300 at the end of December – 25% of all furloughed employments in the region.

Separate figures from HMRC show around 16,500 claims had been made in Buckinghamshire for the third Self-Employment Income Support Scheme grant by the end of December – 54% of eligible workers.

The SEISS allows the self-employed to claim a grant worth 80% of their average monthly profits, up to £7,500.

But the Institute for Fiscal Studies says it has "arbitrarily" left out two groups – those with incomes greater than £50,000 and those with less than 50% of their income from self-employment – and would require just 5% more of its cost to date (£21 billion) to include them.

Jonathan Cribb, senior research economist at the IFS, said: "At relatively low cost the Government could choose to extend the support scheme to both groups, particularly if they created a tapered support scheme for higher earners."

The deadline for submissions to the third grant was January 29, with details of the fourth grant to be announced at the spring Budget, on March 3.

An HM Treasury spokesman said: ‘’We’ve invested more than £280 billion throughout the pandemic to protect millions of jobs and businesses.

‘’As the IFS acknowledge, the Government has designed and provided one of the most generous self-employed income support schemes in the world which has helped nearly 3 million people claim almost £20 billion pounds."