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UK workers slowly move off furlough programme - statistics office

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LONDON (Reuters) - One tenth of Britain’s workforce was still furloughed less than two months before the planned closure of the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme at the end of October, the Office for National Statistics said on Thursday.

In the two weeks to Sept. 6, 10% of Britain’s workforce was signed up to the government’s furlough programme, down from 11% in the previous two-week period, the ONS said.

Finance minister Rishi Sunak is under pressure to announce a partial extension of the scheme by targeting help towards the worst-hit sectors of the economy in order to slow a wave of job losses.

While he has said the scheme will not be prolonged beyond the planned closure on Oct. 31, earlier this week he said he would be “creative” in seeking new ways to stave off unemployment.

Data on Tuesday showed Britain’s unemployment rate increased to 4.1% in the three months to July from the 3.9% level it had clung to since early 2020.

The Bank of England has forecast that unemployment will hit 7.5% at the end of this year, when it is expected to expand its bond-buying stimulus programme again.

Clues about its next move are likely to emerge at 1100 GMT, when it publishes the results of its September policy meeting.

The ONS survey also showed 11% of businesses saw a moderate to severe risk of insolvency - little changed from previous readings.

The ONS also said the proportion of adults travelling to work rose above 60% for the first time.

Writing by Andy Bruce; editing by William Schomberg

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