Thousands more Aberdeenshire workers on furlough in January

Thousands more workers in Aberdeenshire were on furlough last month as stricter lockdown restrictions were imposed.

Monday, 1st March 2021, 7:00 am
Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

The latest figures come amid reports that Chancellor Rishi Sunak is preparing to extend the income support scheme into the summer, to coincide with the Prime Minister's roadmap out of lockdown.

HM Revenue and Customs data reveals around 16,700 jobs held by workers living in Aberdeenshire were furloughed as of January 31.

That was 4,900 more than the 11,800 furloughed a month earlier, when the UK was on the cusp of its third national lockdown.

But despite this increase, the number is still far lower than in May last year – the earliest month with comparable figures – when there were 29,700 furloughed jobs.

Jobs at firms which are unable to operate or have no work for their employees during the pandemic are eligible for furlough pay from the Government – with workers currently getting 80% of their wages, up to £2,500 per month.

Charlie McCurdy, researcher at the Resolution Foundation think tank which focuses on living standards, said: “Furlough has once again played a crucial role in protecting incomes and keeping a lid on rising unemployment.

"But with almost five million workers still on furlough in the most recent data, our biggest labour market challenges may be ahead of, rather than behind, us."

As is the case across the UK, the industry with the most jobs furloughed in Scotland is hospitality, with 91,400 at the end of January – 25% of all furloughed employments in the country.

The Labour Party warned more than a million hospitality jobs could be lost nationally if the furlough scheme is not extended.

Lucy Powell, shadow minister for business and consumers, said: “Business owners want to protect their livelihoods and those of their employees, but they can’t plan in the dark and they’re crying out for certainty from the Government on business rates, VAT and the furlough scheme."

Separate HMRC figures show around 5,500 claims had been made in Aberdeenshire for the third Self-Employment Income Support Scheme grant by the end of January.