4.7 million people were on furlough at the end of February

In response to today’s new HMRC figures on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (JRS), which show that 4.7 million workers were furloughed (either fully or partially) at the end of February this year, Daniel Tomlinson, Senior Economist at the Resolution Foundation, said:

“4.7 million employees were furloughed at the end of last month, showing just how big an impact the Covid-19 crisis is having on people’s jobs and earnings – and offering a stark reminder that the peak of the unemployment caused by the pandemic lies ahead, rather than behind us

“The fact that the number of furloughed workers is only around half the peak we saw during the first lockdown shows that the economy is coping better this time round. However, employees in the hospitality and leisure sectors still face high ongoing uncertainty about their jobs.

“With recent Resolution Foundation research finding that at least 1.9 million workers have been either fully furloughed or unemployed for six months or more – a situation that can lead to lost skills and stunted career growth – the risk of furloughed workers having their future pay and career prospects scarred still looms large.

“This is due to the fact that job exits and the number of vacancies both remain low, with the number of job vacancies from December 2020 to February 2021 down 27 per cent on a year earlier, though it has improved at least since last summer. It’s essential that the winding down of the furlough scheme is done in a sensitive, sector-specific way that minimises any further negative effect on employment.”