The number of people on furlough increased by 700,000 last month as a result of tighter lockdown restrictions, according to official statistics.

HMRC reported that 4.7 million people were furloughed on 31 January 2021, up from 4m in December 2020.

According to the tax authority, the hospitality industry took the biggest hit, with 1.15 million employees furloughed in January, resulting in a 3% increase.

In total, 11.2 million employees across the UK had been on the scheme as of 15 February 2020, claiming £53.8 billion altogether.

With the furlough scheme currently due to come to an end on 30 April 2021, several industry groups are calling for an extension to the scheme.

In a statement to the House of Commons earlier this week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out his "roadmap" for the easing of lockdown restrictions, and hinted that a furlough extension might be announced in the Spring Budget on 3 March 2021.

He said:

"People may be concerned about what these changes mean for the various support packages, for livelihoods for people and for the economy.

"So I want to assure the House, we will not pull the rug out... the Chancellor will set out further details in the Budget next Wednesday."

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