TOUGH times are ahead as the end of the furlough scheme looms - with latest figures showing another fall in employment in York.

The latest local authority data for the city shows that 12,674 unemployed people and those on low incomes claimed Universal Credit in July, up from 12,453 the previous month.

Nationally, 81,000 employees lost their jobs in July, with about 730,000 UK workers having been taken off the payrolls since the coronavirus lockdown began in March.

Andrew Lowson, executive director, York BID, said: "It won’t come as a surprise that unemployment for York has increased, but nothing on the levels that some locations are seeing.

"York at the moment is benefitting from domestic tourism, so much of our retail and leisure is looking to exploit this as best possible following lockdown.

"We are realistic that there are tough times to come as furlough ends in autumn and tourism dies down. "What is unclear at the moment is whether we will see multiple business failures; or businesses staying afloat, but shedding staff resource to achieve this?

"There are a lot of variables that will make a difference such as the health of our office sector; whether they return to working in the city; a second spike; news on a vaccine.

"What is a fact is that the York economy is lucky to have such diversity, as many locations are suffering with no office workers or visitors to use local facilities."

Office for National Statistics data shows the number of employed now stands at just under 28.3 million, with, the official unemployment rate at 3.9 per cent. To be counted as unemployed, workers need to be actively looking for work, but many have decided not to yet, the ONS said.

Experts warn the extent of the jobs problem has been hidden by the furlough scheme as furloughed workers are considered to be employed, but many worry they will have no job to return to when the scheme ends in October.

The Government has promised a £1,000 per employee bonus to any company that brings back furloughed staff and keeps paying them until January.

Cllr Andre Waller, executive member for economy and strategic planning, said: "Since the start of the pandemic our two key aims have been to protect the health and wellbeing of everyone in the city and to ensure as much as possible that York’s economy is ready to recover from the pandemic.

"To ensure businesses are in the best position possible officers worked swiftly to distribute over £70 million in discounts to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses.

"We have also worked to support businesses since the start of the pandemic by distributing over £47 million in business support grants. We have also made the case to the Government for additional funds as some companies have still missed out as York’s allocation of the Discretionary Fund was over-subscribed and has been fully allocated to businesses.

"Whilst the short term outlook presents significant challenges, we should be encouraged by the opportunities we have available to us.

"We are aware a significant proportion of York’s economy is based around hospitality and leisure which is why we have taken steps, with the BID, to enable businesses to continue operating whilst ensuring they are able to comply with social distancing guidelines.

"We are also continuing to progress major developments, including York Central that will see up to 2,500 homes and 112,000m2 of space for office, leisure and retail uses.

"We are also launching a skills and jobs hub to help people get back into work, and to enable businesses to access apprenticeships and other training opportunities.”