Number of furloughed workers drops below two million for the first time

But experts warn this number is still higher than expected as businesses prepare for the government to cut its contribution over the weekend

Number of furloughed workers drops below two million for the first time

The number of people on furlough dropped by over half a million this month, bringing the total to below two million for the first time since the start of the scheme.

However, as businesses prepare for the government’s contribution to the scheme to drop again over the weekend, experts have warned that older workers are far more likely to be left “parked” on furlough than their younger counterparts.

Figures from HMRC showed that at the end of June there were 1.9 million employees on furlough, 590,000 less than at the start of the month.

But analysis of the figures by the Resolution Foundation has found that younger workers were coming off furlough at a much faster rate than those over the age of 65.

The share of under 18s on the scheme fell from 13 per cent in May to 7 per cent in June, while the proportion of those aged between 18 and 24 dropped from 10 to just 6 per cent over the same period.

In comparison, one in 10 workers over the age of 65 were still on furlough – the highest of any age group.

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The think tank also cautioned that the overall rate of people coming off furlough had slowed compared to May this year, when 1.1 million people came off furlough following the relaxation of restrictions that month.

Charlie McCurdy, economist at the Resolution Foundation, said the number of people on furlough was still “higher than many expected, and a cause for concern as the scheme is wound down”.

“With employer contributions to furloughed staff doubling from this Sunday, and the scheme ending completely in just two months’ time, it’s vital that as many furloughed staff as possible return to work soon, in order to limit the rise in unemployment this Autumn,” he said.

As expected, on Sunday (1 August) the government will drop its contribution to the furlough scheme down to 60 per cent of the wages for the hours not worked – up to a maximum of £1,875 per employee per month. The minimum employer contribution will also increase to 20 per cent, capped at £625 a month.

The contribution levels will then stay at those levels until the scheme finally closes on 30 September.