Labour market statistics

Date published: 19 May 2020

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

Labour market statistics
Labour market statistics

Confirmed redundancies increased over the year

  • The number of confirmed redundancies (3,108) in the most recent 12 months was 47 per cent higher than in the previous 12 months (2,112). NISRA, acting on behalf of the Department for the Economy, received confirmation that 117 redundancies took place in April 2020.
  • A total of 783 redundancies were proposed in April 2020, higher than March’s total of 557; and a further 124 were proposed in the current month to 18th May.

NI Claimant Count (Experimental Series) increased over the month

  • In April 2020, the seasonally adjusted number of people on the claimant count was 56,200 (6.1 per cent of the workforce). This represents an increase of 26,500 (89 per cent) from the previous month’s revised figure, the highest monthly increase on record. At 6.1 per cent the claimant count rate is similar to rates seen in 2009/10 and 2014, and below the most recent peak of 7.3 per cent in December 2012.

Employee earnings from PAYE increased over the quarter and the year

  • Data from the latest HMRC PAYE RTI show that NI had a median monthly pay of £1,715 in the three months to March 2020, which was an increase of 1.5 per cent on the previous three months and an increase of 3.3 per cent on the same time last year.

NI unemployment rate was unchanged 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 January-March 2020 was estimated from the Labour Force Survey at 2.4 per cent. The unemployment rate was unchanged over the quarter and decreased by 0.5pps (percentage points) over the year. Although recent changes were not statistically significant (i.e. the recorded changes did not exceed the variability expected from a sample survey of this size), the unemployment rate was significantly below rates in late 2018.
  • The NI unemployment rate (2.4 per cent) was below the UK rate (3.9 per cent), the European Union (27) rate (6.5 per cent) for February 2020 and the Republic of Ireland rate (5.4 per cent) for March 2020.

Employment rate and economic inactivity rates were unchanged over the quarter

  • The proportion of people aged 16 to 64 in work (the employment rate) was unchanged over the quarter and increased over the year by 1.1pps to 72.4 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 0.7pps to 25.8 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 changed how it collects information from households. 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 was also rolled out in April designed to capture a subset of labour information and will supplement the main Labour Force Survey data.
  • There is currently a lower than usual response rate to the labour market surveys. NISRA would like to encourage households, who have been selected, to take part in the surveys and thank those who continue to respond to the household surveys. Responding ensures NISRA can continue to produce reliable statistics on the impact of the pandemic on the labour market.


  • The Labour Force Survey estimates relate to January to March 2020. The impact of COVID-19 on the labour market is therefore not fully reflected in these estimates, which showed no change in the employment rate, the unemployment rate and the economic inactivity rate over the quarter to January-March 2020. The unemployment (2.4 per cent) and economic inactivity (25.8 per cent) rates were both lower than one year ago while the employment rate (72.4 per cent) was higher than one year ago. Similarly, although at 33 hours per week, the average number of hours worked in January to March was an hour lower than the same quarter last year, it was still within the range seen during 2019 (33 to 34 hours).
  • More timely indicators relating to April and May begin to show the impact of COVID-19 on the labour market. The number of out of work benefits’ claimants (the experimental Claimant Count) almost doubled (increased by 26,500 or 89 per cent) over the month to April (reference date 9 April) while the number of proposed redundancies was 783 in April and a further 124 were proposed in the current month to 18 May. The number of proposed redundancies in April is the fifth largest in the last five years while the monthly increase in the claimant count is the highest monthly increase since records began and brings the claimant count to 2014 levels.

Notes to editors: 

The statistical bulletin and associated tables are available on the Labour Force Survey page of the NISRA website.

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

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, experimental claimant count data and experimental earnings estimates from HMRC’s PAYE Real Time Information System.

‘Over the quarter’ refer to comparisons between the latest quarterly estimates for the period January-March 2020 and the quarter previous to that (ie October-December 2019). ‘Over the year’ refer to comparisons between the latest quarterly estimates for the period January-March 2020 and those of the corresponding quarter one year previously (ie January-March 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.

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

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 1.8 per cent and 2.9 per cent).

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 9 April.

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.

HMRC’s Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Real Time Information (RTI) system is an administrative data source. The PAYE RTI system is the system employers use to take Income Tax and National Insurance contributions before they pay wages to employees. These data relate to employees paid by employers only, and do not include self-employment income.

Estimates of employee earnings from PAYE are classed as experimental statistics as they are still in their development phase. As a result the data are subject to revisions. The HMRC PAYE covers the whole population rather than a sample of employees or companies. Data are based on where employees live and not the location of their place of work within the UK. Data are seasonally adjusted but not adjusted for inflation.

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.

The next Labour Market Report will be published on the NISRA website on 16 June 2020.

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.

Feedback is welcomed and should be addressed to:

Responsible statistician:

Sarah Fyffe,

Economic and Labour Market Statistics Branch (ELMS), or Tel: 028 905 29449.

Share this page

Back to top