The number of UK workers on leave fell by more than 880,000 last month, another sign that the economy is picking up.
At the end of April, 3,435,400 people were registered with the job retention program for coronaviruses (CJRS), against 4,319,100 at the end of March, reports the HMRC.
The largest drop occurred in the wholesale and retail trade sector, which had 234,500 fewer jobs on leave after stores reopened in April.
There has also been a sharp reduction in the number of people on leave in accommodation and food services, and arts and entertainment businesses, although utilization rates remain high in these sectors, HMRC adds.
At the end of April, there were still about 602,800 people on leave in the wholesale and retail sector, 932,600 in accommodation and food services, 246,300 in manufacturing, 166,600 in construction and 230,200 in arts and entertainment.
The government welcomed the drop, saying 11.5 million employees and 1.3 million employers have now been supported by the CJRS (which pays 80% of wages to people currently not needed for work due to the pandemic ).
Resolution Foundation has calculated that the use of the Job Retention Scheme has reached two billion days [the total number of employments furloughed each day since the start of March 2020, including weekends].
Dan Tomlinson, senior economist at the Foundation Resolution, says:
Employees have accumulated two billion days off since the start of the pandemic. It shows how big an impact the pandemic has had on the economy – and how vital the leave scheme has been in preventing mass unemployment.
The continued decline in holiday rates in April as the economy began to reopen is an encouraging indicator that the labor market – as well as the economy as a whole – is recovering quickly.
But with around one in six young workers still on leave at the end of April, today’s figures are a stark reminder of the risk of rising unemployment when the leave scheme ends. The government must do everything to ensure that these workers find work as quickly as possible.