Labour market statistics

Date published: 21 January 2020

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

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Northern Ireland Labour Force Survey

Key points

NI unemployment rate decreased over the quarter and year to a joint record low

  • The latest NI seasonally adjusted unemployment rate (the proportion of economically active people aged 16+ who were unemployed) for the period September-November 2019 was estimated from the Labour Force Survey at 2.3 per cent. The unemployment rate decreased over the quarter by 0.6 percentage points (pps) and decreased by 1.2pps over the year. The quarterly and annual changes in the unemployment rate were statistically significant, that is, the recorded changes exceeded the variability expected from a sample survey of this size and were likely to reflect real change.
     
  • The NI unemployment rate (2.3 per cent) was below the UK rate (3.8 per cent), the European Union (6.3 per cent) rate for October 2019 and the Republic of Ireland (4.8 per cent) rate for November 2019.

Employment rate increased to a record high

  • The proportion of people aged 16 to 64 in work (the employment rate) increased over the quarter by 1.1pps and increased over the year by 2.7pps to 72.6 per cent. The annual change in the employment rate was statistically significant, ie the recorded change exceeded the variability expected from a sample survey of this size and was likely to reflect real change.

Economic inactivity decreased over the quarter and the year           

  • The economic inactivity rate (the proportion of people aged from 16 to 64 who were not working and not seeking or available to work) decreased over the quarter by 0.7pps and decreased over the year by 1.9pps to 25.7 per cent. Although recent changes were not statistically significant, the economic inactivity rate was significantly below rates in early 2018.

Confirmed redundancies increased over the year

  • Under the Employment Rights (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 (Amended 8 October 2006) companies are legally required to notify the Department of impending redundancies of 20 or more employees. Since companies who propose less than 20 redundancies are not included in the statistics, figures provided are likely to be an underestimate of total job losses. It should also be noted that the confirmed total provides a better indication of real job losses than the proposed total as not all proposed redundancies actually take place.
     
  • The number of confirmed redundancies (3,192) in the most recent 12 months was 28 per cent higher than in the previous 12 months (2,498). NISRA, acting on behalf of the Department for the Economy, received confirmation that 143 redundancies took place in December 2019.
     
  • A total of 50 redundancies were proposed in December 2019, a decrease on the previous month’s total of 255.

Commentary

  • Estimates from the Labour Force Survey indicate that the employment rate increased over the quarter and the year to the highest on record (72.6 per cent) while the unemployment rate decreased to a joint record low of 2.3 per cent and inactivity decreased over the quarter and year to 25.7 per cent.
     
  • The continued improvements in the NI labour market are consistent with the UK experience, where employment was the highest on record, unemployment was joint lowest on record and inactivity was the lowest on record. It is worth noting, while the NI unemployment rate was the lowest of all the UK regions, NI had the second lowest employment rate and highest inactivity rate.

Notes to editors: 

1. The statistical bulletin and associated tables are available at: Labour Force Survey

2. The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency wishes to thank the participating households for taking part in the Labour Force Survey.  

3. The Labour Market Report is a monthly overview of key labour market statistics. This month’s report includes updated figures from the Labour Force Survey and official redundancy data.

4. The official measure of unemployment is from 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 unemployment rate is likely to fall within 1.0% of the quoted estimate (i.e. between 1.3% and 3.3%).

5. Redundancies are provided by companies under the Employment Rights (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 (Amended 8 October 2006) whereby they are legally required to notify the Department of (a) redundancies proposed and (b) redundancies confirmed. Companies are legally required to notify the Department of impending redundancies of 20 or more employees. Companies who propose fewer than 20 redundancies are not included in the statistics. As a result, the figures provided are likely to be an underestimate of total job losses, however, it is not possible to quantify the extent of the shortfall.

6. The Labour Market Report will be of interest to policy makers, public bodies, the business community, banks, economic commentators, academics and the general public with an interest in the local economy.

7. The next Labour Market Report will be published on the NISRA website on 18 February 2020.

8. Feedback is welcomed and should be addressed to:

Responsible statistician:

Sarah Fyffe,
Economic and Labour Market Statistics Branch (ELMS),
sarah.fyffe@nisra.gov.uk or Tel: 028 905 29449

9. For media enquiries, please contact DfE Press Office on 028 9052 9604. Outside office hours, please contact the Duty Press Officer on 028 9037 8110.

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