Finance

Furlough scheme a ‘massive support’ to Humber economy – Chamber

The use of the furlough scheme to protect jobs through the pandemic has been praised by Hull and Humber Chamber of Commerce.

Britain has maintained one of the longest salary support schemes to help cope with coronavirus’ impact on the economy, but the £70 billion programme has now come to a close – having been tapered in recent months from the full wage to 80 per cent and then 60 per cent.

David Hooper, external affairs manager for the business support organisation, said: “The furlough scheme has been a massive support for business over the past 18 months. It has kept a lot of jobs open which would otherwise have been lost.

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“It is a concern as it comes to an end, but it could not carry on forever – we need to get people back to work as much as we can.”

Pre-pandemic, Hull, where unemployment is historically above the national average, had been at one of the lowest levels seen for some time – 5.9 per cent – but widened to 9.6 per cent as the impact was felt.

Successive drops were seen during the summer months as the economy re-opened, with the figure at 8.3 per cent for September, still significantly above North East Lincolnshire (5.6), North Lincolnshire (4.7) and East Riding (3.4).

Recruitment is described as tough by many, with the caravan industry in particular clamouring for staff.

David Hooper, Hull and Humber Chamber of Commerce’s external affairs manager.

Mr Hooper said: “The closure of the scheme may also help with the recruiting of staff as people come back into the jobs market, so issues there may be eased.”
He said the new normal for those not in physical manufacturing or customer-facing roles may be more of a hybrid model of home and workplace.

As reported, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has told of his immense pride in the furlough scheme, and praised the “resolve of UK workers and businesses” that has “seen us through an immensely difficult time”. In closing it he flagged one million vacancies available.

Despite this, experts are predicting a rise in unemployment, with one million nationally understood to still be in receipt as the scheme ends.

In total it has protected 11.6 million jobs.

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