Your social gathering is going to have to be in real trouble before you resort to this, but if you have exhausted the A Level fiasco and lack the strength to move on to Brexit, how about regaling your companions with some furlough facts for their amusement and delectation, courtesy of HMRC’s August 2020 report on take-up of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme up to 30 June?

The report begins with the cautionary note that the statistics in it are “experimental”. It is not immediately clear whether that means politically, mathematically or methodologically, but in any case, while subject to rounding and revision, they are unlikely to be wildly off the mark.

Some headlines:

(i)         Some 9.6 million people, almost exactly a third of those eligible, were on furlough at some point prior to 30 June.

(ii)        1.16 million employers had made a claim under the CJRS. This sounds a colossal number but is scarcely 60% of those who could have done so;

(iii)       Using the same company purpose codes as Companies House, HMRC has identified furlough rates in each of some 200 separate professions. Understandably, hardest hit seem “hotels and similar accommodation” plus vehicle sales, each with 80%+ of their staff furloughed. Those escaping most lightly include pharma products (3%); fund management, satellite telecoms and water treatment services (2%); “hospital activities” (1%); and “monetary intermediation” whose 1,300 furloughed staff amount statistically to the only 0% of the whole lot. And while we are on the subject of statistics, the table behind the report calculates that the 300 furloughed jobs in “hunting, trapping and related service activities” is 33% of the available 800 employments. Perhaps that is what experimental maths looks like.

(iv)       The biggest sector for sheer numbers put on furlough were the wholesale and retail sectors at over 1.9 million.

(v)        29% of eligible female employees have been furloughed, compared to 34% of men.

(vi)       The tables behind the report also include some statistics around age, showing almost exactly consistently between the genders that you are least likely to be furloughed between about 41 and 55. Ideally you would be under 16, since less than 1 in 6 of them were furloughed, but they do face a particularly brutal introduction to the real world of work immediately after that with over 60% of 16-18 year olds being claimed for under the Scheme. This is the highest proportion of any age group by miles, essentially double that of the over-70s.

(vii)      There has been little variation by region around that average one third on furlough, with the West Midlands the highest at 34% and the East and South East the lowest in town at 30%. Even when you break those numbers down into individual parliamentary constituencies, the numbers are still relatively evenly distributed. There are a tiny handful where the proportion furloughed at some point since June is over 40%, topped by Westmorland & Lonsdale at a terrifying 45%, nearly one worker in two, with the lowest being the Cities of London and Westminster at 22% and the great majority in the 30%s.

(viii)     A macro view of the impact of the pandemic on employers can be gained from the statistics showing the number of people on furlough on any given day. From 1st to 19th March a steady increase from 20,900 to 34,800. On 20th a ten‑fold jump to 345,300, more than doubling again the next day, hitting 1 million the day after that and 6 million three days later. The number stuck at over 8 million for the whole of April and May but since then has started a slow slide down, dipping below 7 million right at the end of June.

(ix)       If the dessert at your bash is delayed too far, then you can break the statistics down further by dates and region or dates and industry sector, but there is always a point where it would be better just to call for a coffee and make a run for it, and that might well be it.