Labour market statistics

Date published: 17 March 2020

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

The Labour Market Statistics were published today by the Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency.
The Labour Market Statistics were published today by the Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency.

Key points

NI unemployment rate increased over the quarter and decreased over the year

  • The NI seasonally adjusted unemployment rate (the proportion of economically active people aged 16+ who were unemployed) for the period November-January 2020 was estimated from the Labour Force Survey at 2.4 per cent, one of the lowest rates on record. The unemployment rate increased over the quarter by 0.1 percentage points (pps) from the lowest rate on record and decreased by 1.1pps over the year. The annual change was statistically significant, i.e. the recorded change exceeded the variability expected from a sample survey of this size and was likely to reflect real change.
  • The NI unemployment rate (2.4 per cent) was below the UK rate (3.9 per cent), the European Union (28) rate (6.2 per cent) for December 2019 and the Republic of Ireland rate (4.8 per cent) for December 2019.

Employment rate decreased over the quarter and increased over the year

  • The proportion of people aged 16 to 64 in work (the employment rate) decreased over the quarter by 0.1pps and increased over the year by 1.3pps to 72.3 per cent, one of the highest rates on record. Although recent changes were not statistically significant, the employment rate was significantly above rates in 2018.

Economic inactivity was unchanged over the quarter and decreased over 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) was unchanged over the quarter and decreased over the year by 0.5pps to one of the lowest rates on record (25.9 per cent). Although the annual change was not statistically significant, the economic inactivity rate was significantly below rates in 2017.

Confirmed redundancies increased over the year

  • The number of confirmed redundancies (3,045) in the most recent 12 months was 29 per cent higher than in the previous 12 months (2,359). NISRA, acting on behalf of the Department for the Economy, received confirmation that 23 redundancies took place in February 2020.
  • A total of 99 redundancies were proposed in February 2020, a decrease on the previous month’s total of 424.

Total Employee Jobs increased over the quarter and year

  • Estimates from the Quarterly Employment Survey December 2019 indicate that private sector jobs decreased over the quarter (-0.1 per cent or -430 jobs) and increased over the year (1.2 per cent or 6,810 jobs). Public sector jobs increased over both the quarter and the year. The number of public sector jobs is estimated at 211,670 and is 7 per cent below its highest level in September 2009.
  • The total number of employee jobs increased over the quarter (1,790 jobs) and over the year (10,730 jobs) to 784,140; the highest number of jobs on record (in the seasonally adjusted series).
  • Construction was the only broad industry sector to experience a decrease in employee jobs over the year, although this decrease was marginal at 0.2 per cent (-50 jobs). The services sector, which accounts for 81 per cent of jobs in NI, accounted for the majority of the annual growth (93 per cent). This is consistent with trends since recovery began in 2012. 

Commentary

  • Businesses and households continued to report relatively strong labour market conditions.
  • Businesses reported via the Quarterly Employment Survey that employee jobs increased over the quarter and year to a record high of 784,140 jobs. This continues a period of quarter on quarter growth from December 2015. The service and manufacturing sectors reported growth in jobs over the year while the construction sector experienced a marginal decrease. The services sector continues to account for the majority of growth in jobs.
  • Estimates from the Labour Force Survey showed a marginal decrease in the employment rate, a marginal increase in the unemployment rate, and no change in the economic inactivity rate over the quarter.  The unemployment (2.4 per cent) and economic inactivity (25.9 per cent) rates were both lower than one year ago while the employment rate (72.3 per cent) was higher than one year ago.
  • The continued improvements in the NI labour market are in keeping with the UK experience. It is worth noting, while the NI unemployment rate continues to be the lowest of all the UK regions, NI had the second lowest employment rate and highest economic inactivity rate.

Notes to editors: 

1. The statistical bulletin and associated tables are available on the NISRA website

2. The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency wishes to thank the participating households for taking part in the Labour Force Survey and participating businesses for taking part in the Quarterly Employment 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, official redundancy data and Quarterly Employment Survey.

4. ‘Over the quarter’ refer to comparisons between the latest quarterly estimates for the period November – January 2020 and the quarter previous to that (i.e. August - October 2019). ‘Over the year’ refer to comparisons between the latest quarterly estimates for the period November – January 2020 and those of the corresponding quarter one year previously (i.e. November – January 2019). Changes that are found to be significant in a statistical sense (i.e. where the estimated change exceeded the variability expected from a sample survey of this size and was likely to reflect real change) will be specifically highlighted.

5. Estimates relating to November – January 2020 should be compared with the estimates for August – October 2019 as this provides a more robust estimate than comparing with the estimates for October - December 2019 as the November and December data are included in both estimates.

6. 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 0.6% of the quoted estimate (i.e. between 1.8% and 3.0%).

7. November-January Labour Force Survey figures for Northern Ireland and the UK are compared to December data for the EU 28. January-March Labour Force Survey figures for Northern Ireland and the UK will be compared to February data for the EU 27.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. Employee jobs figures are taken from the Quarterly Employment Survey; a survey of public sector organisations and private sector firms. Headline totals for employee jobs are seasonally adjusted. Estimates for industry sub-sections at 2 digit SIC level are not adjusted for seasonality.

11. The next Labour Market Report will be published on the NISRA website on 21 April 2020.

12. 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.

13. Feedback is welcomed and should be addressed to:

Responsible statistician:

Sarah Fyffe,

Economic & Labour Market Statistics Branch (ELMS),

sarah.fyffe@nisra.gov.uk or Tel: 028 905 29449.

14. Follow us on Twitter @Economy_NI

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