Thousands fewer Bedford workers on furlough in April

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Thousands fewer workers in Bedford were on furlough in April, as coronavirus restrictions started easing across the UK.

Many pub, restaurant and shop workers returned to their roles that month as outdoor hospitality and non-essential retail opened for the first time since December.

However, with restrictions still in place, businesses in other sectors continue to be hit hard by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Chancellor Rishi SunakChancellor Rishi Sunak
Chancellor Rishi Sunak

HM Revenue and Customs figures show that 7,900 jobs held by workers living in Bedford were furloughed in April.

That was 2,300 fewer than the 10,200 furloughed at the end of March.

The figures also show that in April in Bedford:

Furloughed jobs in the retail sector dropped by 510, to 1,600

In the arts, entertainment and recreation sectors, 190 fewer jobs were supported by the scheme, however 520 were still furloughed in April

The number of hospitality jobs furloughed fell by 460, to 1,840

Through the scheme, the Government pays 80 per cent of a worker’s wages, up to £2,500 per month, if they haven’t been able to work due to the impact of the pandemic.

However, employers will pay a larger contribution from July.

Across the UK, the total number of jobs furloughed fell by 900,000 during April to 3.4 million at the end of the month, the figures show.

Dan Tomlinson, senior economist at the Resolution Foundation, which focuses on living standards, said the drop in the number of people on furlough was "encouraging".

He added that it is an indicator that the labour market – as well as the wider economy – is recovering quickly.

“But with around one in six young workers still on furlough at the end of April, today’s figures are a stark reminder of the risk of rising unemployment when the furlough scheme ends," he said.

"The Government must do all it can to ensure those workers find work as quickly as possible.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “We’ll continue to support those who need it through to September but I am hopeful that we’ll see more people moving back into work as we continue on the road to recovery.”

At a recent four-nation coronavirus recovery summit, Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called for the UK Government to extend the furlough scheme beyond September.

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said the Government was “open-minded” about the possibility of this and that the furlough scheme had been a huge success.

Separate HMRC figures show 7,900 self-employed workers in Bedford have received Government cash since the self-employment income support scheme started.

The total value of the claims made across the area stood at £70.2 million by May 9.