More than 160,000 still furloughed at end of April


More than 160,000 construction workers remained on furlough at the end of April, new figures have shown.

Data released by the government this week showed that 166,600 roles in the sector were being supported by the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) on 30 April 2021.

This was down from 198,300 a month earlier. Construction’s use of the measure peaked in April 2020 when some 723,600 employees were placed on furlough.

Announced by chancellor Rishi Sunak at the start of the pandemic, the CJRS initially allowed companies to claim government cash to pay eligible employees up to 80 per cent of their wages for hours they didn’t work due to the effects of COVID-19 on the business.

Construction Products Association economics director Professor Noble Francis told Construction News that the decline in the use of the scheme in April reflected a sharp rise in activity into the spring.

But he added that a mixed picture was emerging: “Construction output is already high in new-build housing and refurbishment, as well as infrastructure, where the key issues may be skills shortages in some key hotspots of activity, but the level of furlough reflects the fact that activity in some areas such as new office towers and factories remains lower than before COVID-19.”

The latest data showed that 72,800 construction companies were using the CJRS at the end of April, down from 83,600 at the end of March.

More than £150m of fresh claims were made through the scheme in April, taking the cumulative total of payments made to furloughed construction workers in the six months from 1 November to £1.18bn.

CN revealed last month that some of the largest contractors had made combined claims of almost £10m in the three months to the end of February.

Across all industries, more than 3.4 million jobs were furloughed on 30 April – meaning almost one in 20 workers using the scheme were from the construction sector.

Earlier this week it was revealed that almost 100,000 SMEs in the sector had been classed as being in financial distress in the first quarter of the year, in a recent study.

The government’s furlough scheme is set to be brought to a close at the end of September. However, cabinet office minister Michael Gove suggested yesterday that the UK Government remained “open-minded” about a potential extension of the scheme.


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