Labour Market Statistics

Date published: 21 March 2018

The labour market statistics were published today by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency

NEET statistics published by NISRA.
NEET statistics published by NISRA.


Labour Force Survey (LFS) unemployment falls over the quarter and the year

  • The latest NI seasonally adjusted and 2.6 pps over the year (from 5.7%). The annual rate change was statistically significant, i.e. the recorded changes exceeded the variability expected from a sample survey of this size and would, therefore, likely reflect a real change.
  • The latest NI unemployment rate (3.2%) was below the UK average of 4.3% and was the lowest unemployment rate of the UK regions. Additionally, it was below the European Union (7.3%) rate and Republic of Ireland (6.2%) rate for December 2017.

LFS employment rate and inactivity rate increase over the year

  • There was an increase (1.7 pps) in the employment rate (69.8%) over the quarter and over the year (0.5pps). The increase in the employment rate over the quarter was statistically significant.
  • The economic inactivity rate (27.8%) decreased over the quarter by 1.2 pps and increased by 1.5 pps over the year. The change in the inactivity rate was not statistically significant over the quarter or the year.

NI Claimant Count (Jobseeker’s Allowance plus some out-of-work Universal Credit claimants)

  • From this month the claimant count figures include Jobseeker’s Allowance Claimants and those claimants of Universal Credit who were claiming it principally for the reason of being unemployed. Universal Credit was introduced in NI in September 2017 replacing income-based Jobseekers Allowance for new claimants. On the February claimant count reference date Universal Credit was available in eight out of 35 Job Centres in NI.
  • The new measure is an experimental statistic as it is still in the development phase. The original series based on claimants of Jobseeker’s Allowance only, although still available, will no longer be designated as a National Statistic. Although the original measure will continue to reflect the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, the relevance of it as a measure of unemployment will diminish each month as Universal Credit is introduced in more and more Job Centres across NI. The letter  from NISRA and the reply from the Office for Statistics Regulation on the National Statistics designation are available on the UK Statistics Authority website. 
  • In February 2018, the seasonally adjusted number of people on the claimant count (which includes some out-of-work claimants of Universal Credit) was 28,700 (3.1% of the workforce). This represents a decrease of 100 from the previous month’s revised figure.

Confirmed redundancies decreased over the year

  • There were 238 confirmed redundancies in February 2018.

Quarterly Employee Jobs

  • Private sector jobs increased over the quarter (0.9% or 4,820 jobs) and year (2.6% or 13,840 jobs) to their highest level (549,340) since records began in 1974. Public sector jobs increased over the quarter and year, to stand at 1,760 jobs above the series low which occurred in September 2016. Whilst there has been some recovery in the public sector, the jobs level remains 9.5% below the series peak which occurred in September 2009.
  • The total number of employee jobs increased over the quarter (5,330 jobs) and over the year (15,090 jobs) to a series high of 756,030 in December 2017. Increases were experienced in the manufacturing, construction and services sectors over the year. The services sector accounted for the majority (62%) of growth over the year.


  • The unemployment rate fell over the year and the quarter to 3.2% which, along with May to July 2007, is the lowest on record. This is the second quarter running where the unemployment rate was estimated below 4.0% and below the UK average, and follows a period of generally decreasing unemployment rates seen over the last 5 years. The claimant count (experimental) decreased over the month and the year and has more than halved in the last 5 years.
  • The employment rate (November to January 2018) increased over the year and the quarter to 69.8%; one of the highest rates in the series. The employment rate for this quarter is significantly above rates seen five years ago.
  • At 27.8% the economic inactivity rate has improved over the quarter and increased 1.5 percentage points since the same time last year. Although one of the highest rates recorded since 2010, the current inactivity rate is significantly below peakrates recorded in mid-2009.
  • Businesses reported an increase in employee jobs over the quarter and the year driven by an increase in private sector jobs, particularly jobs in the services sector. Employee jobs have increased by 64,270 jobs since the low point in December 2011 and are now 3% above the pre-downturn peak.

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. From March 2018 the NI claimant count figures include Jobseeker’s Allowance Claimants and those claimants of Universal Credit who were claiming it principally for the reason of being unemployed. This is an experimental and is calculated on the same basis as the GB Claimant Count.  For more information please refer to the Further Information section of the Labour Market Report.
  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 0.9% of the quoted estimate (i.e. between 2.2% and 4.1%).
  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 on the NISRA website
  7. Further information and tables from each of the data sources are available on the NISRA website.
  8. Upcoming releases:
  • The Broad Economy Sales and Exports Statistics are due to be published on the 22nd March and ASHE Pension Statistics on the 26th March.
  • The NI Index of Services and the NI Index of Production are due to be published on the 28th March on the NISRA website.
  • The NI Composite Economic Index and the Construction Output Statistics are due to be published on the 12th April.
  • The next Labour Market Report will be published one day earlier than previously announced on 17th April. This is in line with the change in publication dates announced by the Office for National Statistics.

9. 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 974 383 and your call will be returned.

10. Feedback is welcomed and should be addressed to: Responsible statistician: Carly Gordon, Economic & Labour Market Statistics Branch (ELMS), or Tel: 028 9025 5172.

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