AROUND 1,800 people in South Somerset were still on furlough when the scheme ended at the end of September.

They were among more than one million workers being supported across the UK when the scheme wrapped up, and the Institute for Fiscal Studies said what happens to them is "critical" for the economy.

Data from HM Revenue and Customs shows 1,800 jobs held by workers living in South Somerset were furloughed as of September 30 – 2.6% of all that were eligible.

That was 400 fewer than were on the scheme at the end of August.

The furlough rate in the district was below the UK average of 4%.

In total, around 27,600 jobs have been furloughed in the district since the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme began in March 2020.

Across Somerset, 6,700 jobs held by workers living in the county were furloughed as of September 30, giving a furlough rate of 2.9%.

At the end of August, 1,600 more jobs held by Somerset workers were furloughed than at the end of September.

Around 94,400 jobs have been furloughed in the county since the furlough scheme started in March 2020.

Across the UK, 11.7 million jobs have received wage support from the Government, though the scheme was being used less as coronavirus restrictions eased.

At the end of September, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme was supporting 1.1 million jobs – the lowest number since March 22, 2021.

According to the Treasury, half of the workers still being supported by the scheme were working some of their hours.

From August 1, employers had to contribute 20% of employees’ wages up to £625, with the Government contributing 60% up to £1,875.

Separate figures from the Office for National Statistics estimate 87% of furlough workers have since returned to work, 3% were made permanently redundant, and 3% voluntarily left their role.

Tom Waters, senior research economist at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said: "Early statistics don’t suggest any significant increase in redundancies, suggesting that many employees will be rehired into their old jobs.

"With unemployment barely exceeding 5% at any point since the crisis began, we can safely say that the furlough scheme has prevented a substantial amount of job loss – but it has come with a huge price tag, at a total cost of almost £70 billion.”

Men were slightly more likely to be on furlough than women at the end of September in the UK.

In South Somerset, men and women were just as likely to be on the scheme (2.6%).

Retail workers were the most likely to be furloughed nationally when the scheme ended (15% of all jobs), followed by those in the accommodation and food services sector (14%).

In South Somerset, the retail sector was the most reliant on the scheme at this time, making up 15% of all furloughed jobs.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said furlough helped people "when they needed it most", while the Government's Plan for Jobs will deliver more opportunities going forward.

He added: "As a result of our action the economy is growing, more employees are on payrolls than ever before, and unemployment has fallen for eight months in a row."