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Economic Indicator

16 Nov 2021

UK Economy Confronts End of Government’s Furlough Scheme, Easing BoE Worries

The Index Today

Britain's job market confronts the end of the government's furlough scheme last month, according to data which could ease lingering concerns at the Bank of England about the risks of raising interest rates from their pandemic low.

Sterling strengthened as the number of staff on businesses' payrolls in October rose to 0.8% above levels in February 2020, before the coronavirus pandemic hit, and increased by 160,000 on the month.

The Bank of England has been watching closely in case unemployment rose after the job-protecting furlough scheme expired at the end of September.

Ambrose Crofton, a global market strategist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management, said, "Now that today's labour market data shows that hurdle has been cleared, we think the Bank of England has the green light for interest rate lift-off at their December meeting."

Reuters reported that the BoE's next monetary policy announcement is scheduled for Dec. 16. But Andrew Goodwin at Oxford Economics, a consultancy, said the BoE might need more time to assess the strains facing many consumers from inflation set to hit almost 5% in April, when workers will also have to pay more tax.

Goodwin said, "Given the cost of living challenges facing households and a full assessment of furlough's end arguably needing several months' worth of data, we narrowly think the MPC will delay rate lift-off until February."

The Office for National Statistics said it was possible that people made redundant at the end of the furlough scheme would continue to appear as in work in the data for a few further months, while they worked out their notice period, Reuters added.

The ONS said, "However, responses to our business survey suggest that the numbers made redundant were likely to be a small share of those still on furlough at the end of September 2021,"

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