Labour market statistics

Date published: 21 April 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 and Research Agency.
The Labour Market Statistics were published today by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency.

Confirmed redundancies increased over the year

  • The number of confirmed redundancies (3,050) 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 231 redundancies took place in March 2020.
  • A total of 557 redundancies were proposed in March 2020 and a further 712 in April, an increase on the previous month’s total of 99.

NI Claimant Count (Experimental Series) increased over the month

  • In March 2020, the seasonally adjusted number of people on the claimant count (which includes some out-of-work claimants of Universal Credit) was 29,900 (3. per cent of the workforce). This represents an increase of 200 from the previous month’s revised figure.

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

  • The latest NI seasonally adjusted unemployment rate (the proportion of economically active people aged 16+ who were unemployed) for the period December-February 2020 was estimated from the Labour Force Survey at 2.5 per cent. The unemployment rate increased over the quarter by 0.2 percentage points (pps) and decreased by 0.5pps over the year. The quarterly and annual changes in the unemployment rate were not statistically significant, i.e. the recorded changes did not exceed the variability expected from a sample survey of this size. Although recent changes were not statistically significant, the unemployment rate was significantly below rates in late 2018.
  • The NI unemployment rate (2.5 per cent) was below the UK rate (4.0 per cent), the European Union (27) rate (6.6 per cent) and the Republic of Ireland rate (4.8 per cent) for January 2020.

Employment rate decreased over the quarter, economic inactivity rate was unchanged

  • 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 72.5 per cent. Although recent changes were not statistically significant, the employment rate was significantly above rates in late 2018.
  • The economic inactivity rate (the proportion of people aged 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 0.9pps to 25.6 per cent. Although recent changes were not statistically significant, the economic inactivity rate was significantly below rates in early 2018.

Data Collection

  • Due to COVID-19 NISRA has changed how it collects information from households. The Labour Force Survey previously used two modes of data collection – face to face household interviews and follow-up telephone interviews. From mid-March the face-to-face interviews have been suspended and all interviews are carried out over the phone.
  • A new online Labour Market Survey has also been rolled out. This survey is designed to capture a subset of labour market information and it is intended that information from the Labour Market Survey will supplement the main Labour Force Survey data.
  • Both surveys include additional questions designed to capture the impacts of COVID-19 on employment and working patterns in NI.

Commentary

  • The Labour Force Survey estimates are for December to February 2020 and the experimental Claimant count data refers to the 12th March. The impact of COVID-19 on the labour market is therefore not reflected in these estimates.
  • The number of out of work benefits’ claimants (the experimental Claimant Count) showed a small increase (200 or 0.8 per cent) over the month to March (reference date 12th March). The number of claimants increased by 1.0 per cent in the UK as a whole.
  • Labour Force Survey estimates 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 to December-February 2020. The unemployment (2.5 per cent) and economic inactivity (25.6 per cent) rates were both lower than one year ago while the employment rate (72.5 per cent) was higher than one year ago. The unemployment rate in the UK was 4.0 per cent, the economic inactivity rate was the lowest on record at 20.2 per cent and the employment rate the highest on record at 76.6 per cent.

Notes to editors: 

  1. The statistical bulletin and associated tables are available on the Labour Force Survey page of 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.
  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 experimental claimant count data.
  4. ‘Over the quarter’ refer to comparisons between the latest quarterly estimates for the period December – February 2020 and the quarter previous to that (ie September - November 2019). ‘Over the year’ refer to comparisons between the latest quarterly estimates for the period December – February 2020 and those of the corresponding quarter one year previously (ie December – February 2019). Changes that are found to be significant in a statistical sense (ie 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 December – February 2020 should be compared with the estimates for September - November 2019 as this provides a more robust estimate than comparing with the estimates for November - January 2020 as the December and January 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 per cent of the quoted estimate (ie between 1.9 per cent and 3.0 per cent).
  7. December-February Labour Force Survey figures for Northern Ireland and the UK are compared to January data for the EU 27.
  8. The claimant count is an administrative data source derived from Jobs and Benefits Offices systems, which records the number of people claiming unemployment-related benefits. In March 2018 the NI claimant count measure changed from one based solely on Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) to an experimental measure based on JSA claimants and out-of-work Universal Credit (UC) claimants who were claiming principally for the reason of being unemployed. The most recent count date was 12th March.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. The next Labour Market Report will be published on the NISRA website on 19th May 2020.
  12. For media enquiries, please contact DfE Press Office at pressoffice@economy-ni.gov.uk or 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 and Labour Market Statistics Branch (ELMS), sarah.fyffe@nisra.gov.uk or Tel: 028 905 29449.

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