Furlough figures refuse to budge – over 1 million still vulnerable

In late August, 6% of the workforce was estimated to be on full or partial furlough.

That’s between 1.3 million and 1.7 million people. At the end of July this was 1.6 million.

Within these figures, 2% of the workforce is estimated to be fully-furloughed, which is 300,000-800,000 people.

16% of the workforce in the ‘other services’ sector (which includes hairdressing and beauty treatments) are furloughed, as are 10% in arts, entertainment and recreation.

While only 2% of businesses say they plan some redundancies in the next three months, in the ‘other services’ sector this rises to one in five (20%).

Across the economy, one in five (19%) don’t know if they’ll need to make redundancies, including 39% of transport and storage companies, 24% of accommodation and food services firms, and 23% of car repair companies.

The ONS released the latest wave of the Business Insights survey, covering 6-19 September. The furlough figures are estimates and not all businesses are surveyed.

Sarah Coles, personal finance analyst, Hargreaves Lansdown: “The furlough figures refused to budge in August, which means up to 1.7 million people could still be vulnerable when the scheme vanishes nest week.

“At the end of August, between 1.3 million and 1.7 million people were thought to be on furlough. Given there were 1.6 million furloughed at the end of July, it’s a real concern that these figures haven’t shifted. There’s always the hope that employers are just waiting for the end of the scheme to bring people back, but it means hundreds of thousands of people are still stuck at home, worrying about their future, and watching the clock count down to the moment when furlough support vanishes altogether.

“And while only 2% of businesses plan to lay people off in the next three months, another 19% have no idea whether they’ll need to let people go or not. Life has been so uncertain since the onset of the pandemic, that they can’t be sure who they’ll be employing by the time we get to Christmas.

“These are estimates from a survey that doesn’t speak to every business, so we won’t know the true picture until official figures are out, but it’s a clear indication that hundreds of thousands of people face an uncertain future.”