Furlough has protected thousands of Aberdeenshire jobs
Just under 4,000 people in Aberdeenshire were still on furlough when the scheme closed at the end of September.
They were among more than one million workers being supported across the UK when the scheme wrapped up, and the Institute for Fiscal Studies said what happens to them is "critical" for the economy.
The latest data from HM Revenue and Customs shows 3,800 jobs held by workers living in Aberdeenshire were furloughed as of September 30 – 3.3 per cent of all that were eligible.
That was 500 fewer than the number on the scheme a month previously.
Around 43,000 jobs have been furloughed in the area at various times since the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme began in March 2020.
At the end of September, the furlough scheme was supporting 1.1 million jobs across the UK – the lowest number since March last year.
The Treasury said around half of those still being supported were already working some of their hours.
Separate figures from the Office for National Statistics estimate 87 per cent of furlough workers have since returned to work, three per cent were made permanently redundant and three per cent voluntarily left their role.
Tom Waters, senior research economist at the IFS, said: "Early statistics don’t suggest any significant increase in redundancies, suggesting that many employees will be rehired into their old jobs.
"With unemployment barely exceeding five per cent at any point since the crisis began, we can safely say that the furlough scheme has prevented a substantial amount of job loss – but it has come with a huge price tag, at a total cost of almost £70 billion.”
Retail workers were the most likely to be furloughed nationally when the scheme ended (15 per cent of all jobs), followed by those in the accommodation and food services sector (14 per cent).
In Aberdeenshire, the professional, scientific and technical sector (19 per cent) was the most reliant on the scheme.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said furlough had helped people "when they needed it most" and the Government's Plan for Jobs would deliver more opportunities going forward.
He added: "As a result of our action the economy is growing, more employees are on payrolls than ever before and unemployment has fallen for eight months in a row."
Banff and Buchan MP David Duguid, meanwhile, has hailed the latest furlough statistics for his constituency which show a total of 1,300 jobs, evenly split among men and women, were furloughed as of August 31, down from 4,100 at the end of April.
The total cumulative jobs supported in Banff and Buchan by the furlough scheme since March 2020 stood at 15,300.
Mr Duguid said: “The furlough scheme was an unprecedented act of support by the UK Government.
“To spend £70 billion protecting millions of jobs, including over 15,000 in my Banff and Buchan constituency, is nothing short of amazing.
“The UK Government sprang into action at a time of national crisis and protected our economy, our jobs and the communities and families that depend on them.”