Hundreds more workers in the Braintree district came off furlough in July – the first month employers had to make a contribution to salaries under the scheme.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the latest figure – a 340,000 reduction from June 30 and the lowest since the start of the pandemic – was a sign of the country getting back to business.

The latest figures show 4,200 jobs held by workers living in Braintree were furloughed as of July 31 – six per cent of all that were eligible.

That was 800 fewer than the 5,000 furloughed at the end of June.

It was also down by nearly two thirds compared to the 12,000 on the scheme during the 2021 peak in January.

An age breakdown for those on furlough across local authority areas has been published for the first time.

In Braintree, workers aged 55-59 made up the highest proportion of those on furlough with 490 (12 per cent) on the scheme.

People aged 65 and over accounted for the smallest proportion – 280 (seven per cent).

July was the first month that employers had to pay 10 per cent of the salaries of their furloughed workers, giving them an incentive to bring staff back, or end their employment.

Employer contributions rose to 20 per cent in August and September, and the scheme is due to finish at the end of this month.

HMRC said the furlough scheme had protected nearly 12 million jobs since it began 18 months ago.