The number of people returning to work from furlough has reached its highest level since the start of the pandemic in March, the latest figures have revealed.

The report, published by HM Treasury, comes as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) winds down at the end of this month.

According to the research, the number of people on furlough as of 31 July – the latest data available – fell by 340,000 to just 1.6 million.

This is compared to two million people on furlough at the end of June and a record high of almost nine million in May last year.

Young people – the group most financially affected by the pandemic – are also returning to work in record numbers, the report reveals. The data shows that more than 120,000 people between the age of 18 and 34 came off furlough in June and July.

The analysis also found that high numbers of workers in the arts, entertainment and recreation sectors were returning to work as coronavirus restrictions lift.

Commenting on the figures, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said: “It’s fantastic to see furlough levels at their lowest since the start of the pandemic with young people, in particular, getting back to work and kickstarting their careers as the UK gets back to business.”

The figures come ahead of the CJRS closing this month. Since August, employers have been required to contribute 20 per cent of furloughed employees’ wages, while the Government contributed the remaining 60 per cent.

Mr Sunak added: “With furlough naturally unwinding and coming to a close at the end of the month we are doubling down on our Plan for Jobs – focusing our support on giving people the skills and opportunities they need to succeed in the jobs of tomorrow.”

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