ALMOST one in seven eligible jobs in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole were furloughed at the end of December, new figures show.

The Resolution Foundation think-tank say furloughing has helped protect incomes during the coronavirus pandemic, but warned its expected end in just three months could trigger a wave of job losses across the UK.

Figures from HM Revenue and Customs show around 24,400 jobs were furloughed in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole as of December 31 – 14 per cent of all that were eligible.

In the Dorset Council area the figure was 19,300 - 12 per cent of those eligible.

Men in BCP were slightly more likely to be furloughed than women, with a take-up rate of 14 per cent, compared to 13 per cent. In Dorset the take-up rate was 13 per cent for women and 12 per cent for men.

Jobs at firms which are unable to operate or have no work for their employees because of coronavirus are eligible for furlough pay from the Government – with workers currently getting 80 per cent of their wages, up to £2,500 per month.

Across the UK, 3.8 million jobs were furloughed as of December 31, down slightly from 3.9 million a month before, but well above the 2.4 million of October 31.

With Chancellor Rishi Sunak's scheme set to end on April 30, the Resolution Foundation said the latest figures show how vital it has been in holding "back the tide of job losses" during the pandemic.

Charlie McCurdy, a researcher at the think-tank, said: "The Job Retention Scheme has been a living standards lifeline for millions of workers, with three-in-ten private sector workers furloughed at the peak of the first lockdown.

"The winding up of the scheme in just three months’ time is expected to cause a fresh wave of unemployment.

"It’s vital therefore that the Chancellor ensures a flexible transition out of the scheme, in order to avoid millions of workers simply moving from furlough straight into unemployment."

Rates of furlough nationally were highest for those aged under 18, with a third of eligible jobs held by teenagers on the scheme at the end of 2020.

As is the case across the UK, the industry with the most jobs furloughed in the South West is hospitality, with 94,900 at the end of December – 32 per cent of all furloughed employments in the region.

An HM Treasury spokesman said: "We’ve invested more than £280 billion throughout the pandemic to protect millions of jobs and businesses.

"The Government has designed and provided one of the most generous self-employed income support schemes in the world which has helped nearly three million people claim almost £20 billion pounds."