UK businesses returned £300m in furlough cash, triggered by the spectre of Covid-19 over the British economy receding, according to official figures released today.
The repayment now takes the total amount of money returned to the public coffers to £1.3bn since July last year, the Treasury said.
Rishi Sunak, chancellor, said: “This Government stepped in to help when people needed it most, supporting nearly 12 million jobs through furlough. This worked, nearly 2 million fewer people are now expected to be out of work in the UK than previously feared.”
“Now with our recovery underway it is heartening to see that £1.3bn in furlough grants have been returned as the economy recovers.”
The ending of Covid-19 restrictions in May, June and July boosted businesses’ bottom lines and strengthened confidence in future income.
A resurgence in spending prompted firms to bring back staff to cope with demand. Around 340,000 people left furlough in July, pushing the number of people on the scheme down to 1.6m, the lowest level since it was launched.
However, there are concerns among experts that unemployment could rise after the initiative ends at the end of September.
The Bank of England has also warned the scheme is restricting supply in the labour market, which is putting upward pressure on wages as businesses strengthen incentives to attract workers.
Wages jumped 5.3 per cent last month, according to the Office for National Statistics.