Business and Economics Editor Joel Hills reports on what might happen after furlough ends at the end of September
The Bank of England believes unemployment has peaked. That looks like a bold assumption, given the latest set of furlough statistics.
According to HMRC, the number of people on some form of furlough support fell by 340,000 during July to 1.6 million.
But survey data by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which is more up-to-date, suggests that progress getting people back into work has since stalled.
You can understand why airports, airlines and tour operators are desperate for the scheme to continue. Around half of their staff have their wages subsidised by the taxpayer.
Proportion of employees furloughed, by detailed industry group: July 31, 2021
While activity in some sectors looks almost back to normal, others have a long way to go.
Every part of the UK was affected by the coronavirus pandemic but the scale of downturn triggered by lockdowns and strength of recovery has proved very uneven.
The summer staycation has revived the fortunes of some regions. The Lake District did have one of the highest furlough rates in the UK, it now has one of the lowest.
Proportion of employees furloughed, local authorities with the highest and lowest furlough rates: July 31, 2021
In parts of the UK furlough rates have fallen as low a 3% since the end of lockdown but London’s outer boroughs and airports towns like Slough and Crawley remain extremely exposed to the withdrawal of furlough support.
The capital is the furlough capital. Foreign tourists and commuters have yet to venture back.
The Bank of England believes unemployment has peaked, however others aren’t so sure.
"We expect there’s still going to be one million furloughed when the Job Retention Scheme ends at the end of September," says Charlie McCurdy, an economist at the Resolution Foundation.
"The real risk is that while some of those will retain to work many others won’t and we’ll see a fresh spike in unemployment".
Proportion of employees furloughed, by local authority: UK
For so many and for so long the Job Retention Scheme has been the difference between hope and despair.
It had to go at some point but it fades now to complaints of recruitment shortages and warnings of redundancies.
The next few months will be interesting.