Employers have paid more than £61.3 billion in furlough wages to staff since the start of the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic, data released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) has shown.
According to government statisticians, numbers of furloughed workers have been gradually decreasing, with 4.2 million on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) at 31 March 2021, down from 4.7 million on 28 February. The peak was 8.9 million on 8 May 2020.
All-told, as of 28 February 2021, 41% of employers had put staff on furlough. Provisional estimates show that this decreased to 39% at 31 March 2021.
As of 28 February, employers with 20-49 employees were most likely to have claimed under CJRS, with 62% of organisations of this size having at least one employee on furlough wages. Provisional estimates show this was still true at 31 March 2021, with 58% of these employers having staff on furlough.
According to the data, furlough peaked in the wholesale and retail sector on 24 April 2020, with 1.85 million employees being paid through furlough. This decreased to 932,500 by 28 February, and provisional figures show this declined again with 825,600 people on furlough at 31 March 2021.
The manufacturing sector peaked at 911,000 employments on furlough on 17 April 2020, and provisional estimates suggest this figure has dropped to 273,100 as of 31 March 2021.
ONS found employers with 20 to 49 employees had 636,800 people on furlough at 28 February. Provisional estimates show that the number decreased through March to 565,400 at 31 March 2021.
The spread of staff on furlough has been shown to be broadly consistent across all age bands, and all age bands have seen this fall as re-employment has returned at normal pay.
When it comes to full-time versus part-time furlough though, a lower proportion of jobs were found to be on partial furlough in the first three months of 2021 than in November and December 2020.
London had the highest furlough take-up rate at 18%, with the UK average being 16%.