Sunderland has one of lowest furlough rates as scheme is wound down
Sunderland has led the way in returning to work after coronavirus lockdown.
New research from economic thinktank Centre for Cities shows the city had one of the highest take-ups of the Government’s furlough scheme – but now has one of the lowest.
In total, one in three of Sunderland's working residents has been on the Job Support Scheme at some point, the fifth highest rate of any city in the UK.
But by the end of August, just nine per cent were still claiming furlough, the 10th lowest rate.
The number of people in Sunderland city centre also recovered sharply when lockdown restrictions were eased, with footfall back to pre-March levels by August, a stronger performance than Newcastle, where footfall was around two-thirds of pre-lockdown levels, and much better than London, where it was around one-third.
Sunderland-born Centre for Cities economist Paul Swinney said the city had benefited from its healthy manufacturing sector: “If you look at places such as Crawley and Luton, they have got two big airports which have been heavily affected by the virus,” he said.
"If you look at the likes of London , Manchester and Glasgow, they have got a lot of offices in their city centres, with people who would normally be are going out to cafes, bars and shops – now those people are working from home, they are not going they are not going out and spending money.
“When the virus first hit, Nissan went on to furlough – but then it opened up again. Because the car industry has not been as hard hit as other sectors, Sunderland has been able to weather the storm better and start trading again as lockdown was lifted.”
The data suggests that Sunderland was bouncing back better than most other cities and large towns in the UK before further restrictions came in in September: “Further restrictions will hit retail and hospitality hard, and hopefully the Chancellor's eventual extension of furlough will cushion them again as they did in the spring and early summer,” said Paul.
“But if companies like Nissan continue to stay open through the winter, then this will put Sunderland in a good position to bounce back again when restrictions are eased once more.”