ALMOST two thirds of Cumbria’s workforce could be at risk of losing their jobs, according to a national report.

The alarming statistic, revealed in a study by Grant Thornton UK for the County Councils Network, shows that Cumbria has the highest proportion of jobs at risk anywhere in England - nearly 62 percent.

It says manufacturing will be the hardest hit area, accounting for 16 per cent which is a quarter of those jobs at risk.

The second most at risk sectors of employment identified in the report are retail and accommodation and food services, which each make up for 11.5 per cent.

Cumbria also ranks as having the fourth highest percentage of furloughed workers in England with 73,400 people on furlough out of a total 227,200 in employment.

But Jo Lappin, CEO of Cumbria LEP, says the report doesn’t recognise Cumbria’s unique economic structure and that the true percentage of jobs at risk could be significantly lower.

“It’s a well-research and thoughtful report, however the challenge is that it’s done at a very high level in terms of the analysis, so what you miss is the local interpretation,” she said.

“If you just look at manufacturing as being at risk you come to an assumption that’s quite reasonable, but it doesn’t reflect Cumbria’s unique economic structure.”

The county's two biggest employers - Sellafield and BAE Systems - are in the manufacturing sector and Mrs Lappin explained that as they are publicly funded, and are delivering things of such national importance, they will continue to be supported which is a level of protection.

The LEP’s own vulnerability assessment on sectors at risk, informed by a detailed understanding of the local economy and businesses, has found that 22 per cent of jobs are at serious risk.

Mrs Lappin, who also chairs and the Business and Economic Response and Recovery Group (BERRG) of the Local Resilience Forum, said this figure is largely based on the level of visitor economy and associated sectors.

“That has been a concern for us throughout and we are monitoring very carefully the roll back of the furlough scheme.

“I think that now as employers are starting to contribute, many of them will be reviewing whether they keep people furloughed or they actually move to redundancies," she said.

She added that the visitor economy has seen a higher level of uptake of the Government’s furlough scheme than other areas, particularly in Eden and South Lakeland where many jobs rely on tourism.

“We, locally, have got economists and researchers looking at this and their interpretation of our vulnerability is somewhat more measured because it recgonises the very specific economy and businesses in Cumbria.

“We are still very honest that there is risk and we are concerned.

“We are not in any way complacent. We have got to do everything we can to preserve our businesses and protect jobs," Mrs Lappin continued.

“We will do everything we can to work with our businesses to get a way out of this. What we really need to be doing is focusing on getting our businesses moving again and making sure that we are all supporting our businesses and helping protect business and jobs.”