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November lockdown causes sharp rise in Suffolk furlough figures




Suffolk saw a sharp rise in the number of people on furlough in November and December, as the country’s second lockdown forced thousands back on to the scheme.

The latest data on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme show that 12 per cent of the county’s eligible population were on furlough by the end of November, six per cent - around 18,000 people – more than the month before.

But data released this week shows a slight fall in December across the county as some returned to work, with a one per cent drop in Suffolk in the month following the lifting of the second lockdown.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that the furlough scheme would be extended until March 2021
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that the furlough scheme would be extended until March 2021

Andy Walker, head of policy and public affairs at Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, said the figures were to be expected but that he was now looking ahead to the future.

“It is no surprise to see the growth in furlough figures in East Suffolk, especially given the high percentage of jobs in the leisure, tourism and hospitality sectors which as we all know have really suffered due to the COVID-19 pandemic," he said.

“The good news is that there is significant investment going into Lowestoft and of course the potential new Sizewell C power station and a potential Freeport in Felixstowe, which could help our region recover from the effects of the pandemic and help level-up our region.”]

The government has paid up to 80 per cent of the wages of workers who have been furloughed
The government has paid up to 80 per cent of the wages of workers who have been furloughed

East Suffolk was hit hardest in the county, with the joint-third-highest rise in take-up of all local and unitary authorities in the East of England.

Of the 100,000 in the district eligible to use the scheme, 13 per cent were on furlough by the end of December compared to 6% at the end of October.

Ipswich, Mid-Suffolk, West Suffolk and Babergh all saw five per cent rises in those on furlough in the same period.

However, no authority in the region has seen its furlough take-up exceed their peak in the first lockdown, with 13,000 less people on furlough in Suffolk on New Year’s Day compared to 31 July.

The November spike meant that Suffolk has seen an average decrease of those on furlough of five per cent a month between 31 July and 31 December, compared to almost a 20 per cent monthly decrease from July to October.

That figure keeps Suffolk just ahead of the regional curve.

Nationally there were still over 3.8 million people either fully or partially furloughed as of 31 December, down from a peak of over 4.12 million in mid-November.

The figures also show a widespread need for furloughing as businesses entered the November lockdown, with national figures for those on furlough jumping by almost 1.2 million in a day between 31 October and 1 November.

The under-18 age bracket had the highest take-up rate, with 30 per cent and 41 per cent of men and women respectively using the scheme by 31 November.

As of New Year’s Eve, the East of England had over 347,000 people – around 12 per cent of its eligible population – on furlough, the fourth-highest regional total behind London, the South East and the North West.

Reporting by Callum Parke

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