Planned redundancies fall despite the end of furlough looming, official figures show

Experts say new data provides ‘hope of a smooth landing’ as the job retention scheme enters its final few weeks

The number of expected job cuts fell to a record low last month despite concerns that the end of the furlough scheme could spur more redundancies.

Figures from the government’s Insolvency Service showed there were 12,600 planned job cuts in August, an 11 per cent drop from 14,000 in July.

This was down from a high of 155,600 planned job cuts in June last year, and the lowest number of planned redundancies since at least January 2020.

Stephen Evans, chief executive of the Learning and Work Institute, said the latest redundancy data “adds to the picture of a recovering labour market and provides hope of a smooth landing as the furlough scheme ends”.

But, he said, employment was still 800,000 lower than pre-pandemic levels, and there was still the risk of the economy slowing in the autumn. “The crisis isn’t over yet,” he said.

Samantha Hurley, operations director at the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo), also said the data was encouraging. But, he said, it was too early to see the full impact that the end of furlough – which is set to close at the end of this month – was likely to have on the job market.

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“With the UK experiencing a talent shortage, the likes of which many haven’t seen before, it is highly likely that we’ll see those employers that are able to keep hold of the resources they already have engaged,” said Hurley.

Jon Boys, the CIPD's labour market economist, said: “The explicit goal of furlough is to maintain a match between the worker and their job. We should not be surprised that this might have worked.

“The strength of the economic rebound has ensured that workers coming back online are in demand,” said Boys

However, Rosalind Lowe, head of policy and engagement at the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB), said there were worrying signs employers across sectors and job roles are struggling to hire in the current environment.

“The labour market has been changing rapidly for some time, and the pandemic is only likely to accelerate this,’ she said, calling for a replacement for the since dissolved UK Commission for Employment and Skills.