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EMPLOYMENT UP: But fears remain around impact of furlough

EMPLOYMENT UP: But fears remain around impact of furlough

Employment up, but fears remain around impact of furlough and benefits cut

Employment in West Yorkshire is now above levels seen before the pandemic, but there are still fears around the as-yet unknown impacts of recent benefit cuts and the ending of the Government’s job retention scheme.

That’s according to a new report set to be discussed by regional leaders at a meeting next week.

Although the number of those employed in the region rose dramatically during the first half of 2021, it warned that there were still tens of thousands still on furlough at the end of the Government’s job retention scheme.

It also said benefits claims, although dropping, were still massively higher than they were before the pandemic, and that the ending of the £20 Universal Credit uplift would have a “disproportionately large impact” on households locally.

The report, by West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) officers, claims the number of payrolled employees increased by 35,000 between February and August this year, and by 5,000 in August alone.

It added that employment in the region was now “one percent above” the pre-pandemic level last recorded in August 2019, with 988,000 recorded as PAYE employees.

But it also warned that around 47,000 – or one in 20 – jobs in the region were still furloughed at the end of the Government’s job retention scheme last month.

It added that the number of people on out of work benefits, while showing signs of falling, was still “very large”, with figures in Leeds at 74 per cent higher pre-pandemic levels.

It continued: “The end of the £20 temporary uprating to Universal Credit is likely to have a disproportionately large impact on incomes in West Yorkshire.

“There were 234,000 people and 199,000 households on Universal Credit in West Yorkshire as of August 2021. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation estimate that 56 per cent of families in West Yorkshire will be affected by the reduction, with Bradford West seeing the highest proportion of families affected of any constituency in England.”

It’s not just households suffering, as the report claims businesses in the region are suffering from labour and skills shortages, as well as disruptions to supply chains.

It concluded: “Overall, the economic recovery shows signs of gathering pace following the lifting of restrictions.

“However, the re-opening of the economy has exposed a range of significant supply-side constraints including labour shortages and supply chain disruption, which seem to be intensifying and which threaten the sustainability of the recovery.

“The employment implications of the ending of furlough have not yet become apparent. Although the latest figures suggest large numbers of workers could be affected, it is possible that any negative effects will offset by the buoyant labour market conditions.”

The report will be discussed by WYCA’s Business, Economy and Innovation Committee on Monday, October 18.

 

Words: Richard Beecham, Local Demcoracy Reporter


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