THERE were 1,100 fewer workers on furlough in St Helens in March compared with the previous month as the UK started to recover from the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

The latest statistics – which reveal the situation before pubs and non-essential shops reopened on April 12 – show that millions of people nationally were still on the income support scheme as of March 31.

HM Revenue and Customs data shows around 8,400 jobs held by workers living in St Helens were furloughed then.

That was 1,100 fewer than the 9,500 furloughed at the end of February, and lower than 9,800 in January.

Women in St Helens were slightly more likely to be furloughed than men, with a take-up rate of 11 per cent, compared to 10 per cent.

By the end of March, roughly 28,100 jobs had been supported by the scheme at any point since its inception, the figures show.

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Jobs at firms which are unable to operate or have no work for their employees during the pandemic are eligible for furlough pay from the Government – with workers currently getting 80 per cent of their wages, up to £2,500 per month.

The scheme has been extended until the end of September – beyond the planned reopening of all areas of the economy on June 21 – and employers will have to pay a higher contribution from July.

Across the UK, 4.2 million jobs were furloughed as of March 31, down from 4.7 million a month before.

The latest figures do not cover the further easing of lockdown in April, which saw customers go back to businesses including salons, gyms, pub gardens and non-essential shops across the UK.

But the Resolution Foundation, which focuses on living standards, said they indicate that the lifting of restrictions has "taken some of the heat off furlough".

"At the end of March, 4.2 million employees were furloughed. Initial estimates from Office for National Statistics business survey data suggest that as restrictions were eased, the number furloughed fell to just over 3 million", the think tank said.

"Still, firms in social consumption sectors like hospitality and leisure had over half of their employees furloughed in March.

"These are some of the lowest paid sectors containing a high share of young workers."

Around 1,760 hospitality jobs held by workers in St Helens were furloughed as of March 31 – 21 per cent of all jobs.

That was the largest proportion of all sectors, followed by wholesale and retail, and motor vehicle repair services (20 per cent).

Across the UK, 1.1 million jobs in the accommodation and food services sector were furloughed in March.