Rishi Sunak begged employers not to sack staff when the coronavirus furlough scheme ends next month as the Treasury revealed that almost four million workers remain on it.
The Chancellor hailed the Job Retention Scheme (JRS) this afternoon amid fears of an employment cliff-edge when it ceases to cover wages at the end of October.
He urged companies to 'do the right thing' and apply for the Job Retention Bonus. Launched in July it gives firms £1,000 for each previously furloughed worker who still has a job in January.
Figures released today showed that almost half the more than eight million people places on furlough remained on it in the middle of August, the most recent time period available.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) today showed that the unemployment rate rose from 3.9 per cent to 4.1 per cent in the quarter to July.
This was the first time it has increased since the pandemic hit, and the highest in two years. A total of 1.4million are out of work, up by 62,000.
The estimated increase in the rate for July alone was even higher at 0.5 per cent, according to the latest official data.
Meanwhile, some 695,000 payroll jobs have gone since March, and there are 2.7million people claiming benefits.
Rishi Sunak told MPs today he will continue to act in 'creative and effective ways' to protect jobs, amid calls for a targeted extension of the furlough scheme.
Speaking afterwards he added: 'As today's official employment figures today show, the furlough scheme has done what it was designed to do - save jobs and help people back to work, where they want to be,' he said.
'We were clear at the start of the pandemic that we couldn't save every job, but the furlough scheme has supported millions of workers and we want to help employers keep people on.
'Our Job Retention Bonus will do exactly that, supporting businesses to do the right thing.'
Chancellor Rishi Sunak decorated a plate during a visit to the Emma Bridgewater pottery in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire on Monday, whose workers have returned from furlough.
Mr Sunak with Boris Johnson at the weekly Cabinet meeting this morning
The Chancellor hailed the Job Retention Scheme (JRS) this afternoon amid fears of an employment cliff-edge when it ceases to cover wages at the end of October
He urged companies to 'do the right thing' and apply for the Job Retention Bonus. Launched in July it gives firms £1,000 for each previously furloughed worker who still has a job in January
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer this morning repeated his call for the furlough scheme to be extended.
Making his first TUC conference speech as Labour leader, he said the party accepted the furlough scheme could not continue indefinitely but argued that with 'a bit of imagination' the Government could continue to help those most at risk of losing their jobs.
Speaking from his attic, he called for a 'new, targeted support that can replace the Job Retention Scheme'.
'The truth is this, the virus is still with us - infections are rising, lockdowns are increasing,' Sir Keir told the online audience.