Labour Market and Economic Output Statistics

Date published: 15 March 2017

The Labour Market and Economic Output Statistics were published today by the Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency

Northern Ireland Economic Output Statistics
Northern Ireland Economic Output Statistics

Key Points:


Labour Force Survey (LFS) unemployment increases over quarter

  • The latest Northern Ireland seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for the period November - January 2017 was 5.7%, representing an increase of 0.1 percentage point (pps) from the previous quarter, but a decrease of 0.3 pps over the year (from 6.0%).
  • There was a marginal decrease (0.1 pps) in the employment rate (69.4%) over the quarter but an increase over the year (0.6 pps). The economic inactivity rate remained unchanged over the most recent quarter, and fell (0.3 pps) over the year.
  • The latest Northern Ireland unemployment rate (5.7%) was above the UK average of 4.7% however, it was below the European Union (8.2%) rate and Republic of Ireland (7.2%) rate for December 2016.

Northern Ireland claimant count continues to fall

  • The more recent seasonally adjusted number of people claiming unemployment related benefits stood at 31,600 (3.5% of the workforce) in February 2017, representing a decrease of 300 from the previous month’s revised figure. The number of people leaving the register in the previous 36 month period has slowed from 11,500 in the 12 months to February 2015, to 6,800 in the most recent year to February 2017.

Confirmed redundancies increase

  • There were 134 confirmed redundancies in February 2017. Over the last year to 28th February 2017 here has been a 79% increase in the number of confirmed redundancies: 3,552 compared to 1,987 in the previous year.

Quarterly Employee Jobs

  • Employee jobs increased over the quarter to December 2016 by 0.2% (1,630 jobs) and increased over the year by 0.3% (2,490 jobs). Since the first sign of recovery in December 2012, jobs growth increased to a peak in June 2015 (when jobs increased by 16,390 over the year). Since the peak there has been a continual slowdown in employee jobs growth with revised September 2016 figures showing a marginal decrease over the quarter and year. The most recent quarter records a return to growth over both the quarter and year, though this is not particularly marked.
  • Public sector employee jobs remain 10.3% (23,180 jobs) below the series peak, which occurred in September 2009. However this quarter now recorded the first quarterly increase (0.5% or 1,090 jobs) in public sector jobs. This reflects a slightly larger than usual seasonal increase in the education sector. Private sector employee jobs remain 2.9% (14,750 jobs) above the series peak which occurred in June 2008. Private sector jobs increased by 0.4% (2,170 jobs) over the quarter and by 0.8% (4,230 jobs) over the year.

Services and Production Sector Output

  • Output in the services sector increased over the quarter (1.6%) following a slight quarterly decline in Quarter 3 2016. The sector also recorded growth over the year (3.8%), which was higher than UK growth of 3.1% over the equivalent period (Quarter 4 2015 to Quarter 4 2016). An increase in output was reported over the quarter and year across all services subsectors.
  • Production output in Northern Ireland increased for the fourth quarter (October-December) of 2016, in real terms, by 5.4%. This was the highest quarterly growth rate recorded in recent decades. Compared to the same period one year earlier, the NI index grew by 3.9% to Quarter 4 2016. The increase for the fourth quarter of 2016 was driven by marked increases in output in the food production and electricity and gas sectors. A less marked increase in output was also reported for the UK production sector as a whole, with quarterly and annual increases of 0.4% and 1.9% respectively.


  • Annual LFS figures continue to reflect a gradual decline in the unemployment rate over recent years (from 7.4% in 2013 to 5.7% in 2016), coupled with a gradual increase in the employment rate (from 67.2% in 2013 to 69.5% in 2016).  Business surveys show the number of employee jobs has returned close to pre-downturn levels although a gradual slowdown in jobs growth is evident since June 2015.
  • There has been a return to growth for the NI services sector during Quarter 4 2016, following a quarterly decline of 0.4% reported for Quarter 3 2016. The weakness of sterling exchange rate may have been a contributing factor in the marked quarterly growth in the production sector although annualised growth in output (0.4%) in 2016 remained relatively weak. Manufacturing performance in 2016 was still below (-0.8%) that recorded for 2015 on an annualised basis.
  • The strong performance of the production sector in Quarter 4 2016 was also borne out in the Ulster Bank’s Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) for December 2016 which reported strong performance in the manufacturing and retail sectors which ended 2016 with much stronger sales and orders than they started the year.
  • The post-referendum picture is still emerging and will continue to do so over the coming quarters and years. However there does appear to have been a particularly strong performance by the production sector in the fourth quarter of 2016, although this has only offset a relatively weak performance earlier in the year. The information available so far generally covers short-term indicators with other important annual information not yet available. There has been little impact on unemployment since the EU referendum, and the latest jobs figures suggest a continuation of a more gradual slowdown that had already been evident for some time. 

Notes to editors: 

  1. The Labour Market Report is a monthly overview of key labour market statistics. It includes figures from the Labour Force Survey, the claimant count (people claiming unemployment related benefits), the Quarterly Employment Survey of employers and the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings as well as official redundancy data.
  2. The NI claimant count measure of unemployment is based on people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) from Jobs and Benefits Office Administrative Systems. From 17 June 2015, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) replaced the claimant count based on JSA for Great Britain (GB) with an experimental claimant count based on JSA claimants and a measure of out-of-work claimants of Universal Credit (UC). For more information please refer to the Further Information section of the Labour Market Report (Page 28).
  3. The official measure of unemployment is the Labour Force Survey. This measure of unemployment relates to people without a job who were available for work and had either looked for work in the last four weeks or were waiting to start a job. This is the International Labour Organisation definition. Labour Force Survey estimates are subject to sampling error. This means that the exact figure is likely to be contained in a range surrounding the estimate quoted. For example, the number of unemployed persons is likely to fall within 1.2% of the quoted estimate (i.e. between 4.5% and 6.9%).
  4. Employee jobs figures are taken from the Quarterly Employment Survey a survey of public sector organisations and private sector firms.
  5. This report will be of interest to Ministers, policy makers, public bodies, the business community, banks, economic commentators, academics and the general public with an interest in the local economy.
  6. The detailed statistical bulletin is available from the NISRA website.
  7. Further information and tables from each of the data sources are available on the NISRA – Economic and Labour Market Statistics Website.
  8. For media enquiries, please contact DfE Press Office on 028 9052 9604. Outside office hours, please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07623 974383 and your call will be returned.
  9. Feedback is welcomed and should be addressed to:

Responsible statistician: Andrew Mawhinney, Economic & Labour Market Statistics Branch (ELMS), or Tel: 028 9052 9668.

Follow ELMS on Twitter - @ELMSNISRA

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