Furlough claims fell in March as businesses prepared to reopen

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More than 11,000 people in Peterborough were claiming from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme on March 31 (Photo: John Baker)

Provisional figures from the local authority show that 11% of the 99,500 eligible workers in Peterborough were furloughed on March 31, compared to 13% the month prior. 

Non-essential retail and hospitality was not allowed to reopen until April 12, meaning many employees from these sectors will still be counted in the figures.

Overall, more than 11,000 people in Peterborough were claiming government support on March 31. Of these, around 2,770 were from the wholesale and retail sector, including vehicle repair shops. A further 2,250 were employed in accommodation and food services, with the third most affected sector being from administrative support services where 980 people are furloughed.

The furlough programme – officially named the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme by the government – was launched in March last year as the pandemic forced the country to go into lockdown.

The government said it would pay 80% of the salaries of staff whose employers were unable to stay open because of the restrictions imposed by ministers, aiming to project jobs and ensure people could survive the pandemic financially, with furloughed workers returning to work once it was safe to do so.

As the pandemic stretched on, the furlough scheme ended up being much more costly than initially anticipated; by April 14 the government had received furlough claims worth £61.3 billion from 1.3 million employers across the country.

A total of 11.5 million people across the UK have been put on government-supported furlough at some point within the last 14 months.

At the height of the lockdown, in May and June 2020, between 21% and 25% of eligible workers in Peterborough were being paid to stay away from their jobs.