Labour market statistics

Date published: 16 July 2020

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

Statistical press release
Statistical press release

Key points

Proposed redundancies doubled over the year

  • Almost 7,000 redundancies were proposed in the twelve months to the end of June, more than double the number recorded the previous twelve months. The total number of proposed redundancies in June 2020 reached an all-time high at 2,473, and accounted for approximately a third of all proposed redundancies in the year. A further 745 were proposed between 1 and 15 July.
  • There were 4,155 proposed redundancies between 1 March 2020 and 30 June 2020, with more employers making collective redundancy notifications in these 4 months than for the whole of 2019. The increase in redundancies since the start of March has primarily been driven by four main industry sectors; transportation and storage, accommodation and food services, manufacturing sector, and wholesale and retail trade, collectively accounting for almost 90 per cent of proposed redundancies. In the previous 8 months there were no proposed collective redundancies from the transport and storage sector and less than 1  per cent from the accommodation and food services.
  • The number of confirmed redundancies (2,602) in the most recent 12 months was 44  per cent higher than in the previous 12 months (1,813). NISRA, acting on behalf of the Department for the Economy, received confirmation that 40 redundancies took place in June 2020.

NI Claimant Count (Experimental Series) remained high but decreased over the month

  • In June 2020, the seasonally adjusted number of people on the claimant count was 63,100 (6.8  per cent of the workforce), a decrease of 1,200 (1.9 per cent) from the previous month’s revised figure. This is the second month that the claimant count was above 60,000; levels last seen in 2012 and 2013.

Employee earnings from PAYE decreased over the quarter

  • NI employees had a median monthly pay of £1,688 in the three months to May 2020, a decrease of 0.5 per cent on the previous three months to February and an increase of 1.2 per cent from the same time last year. Although relatively small at 0.5 per cent, this is the first quarterly decrease since 2015.

NI unemployment and employment rates decreased while the economic inactivity rate increased over the quarter

  • The latest NI seasonally adjusted unemployment rate (the proportion of economically active people aged 16+ who were unemployed) for the period March-May 2020 was estimated from the Labour Force Survey at 2.4 per cent. The unemployment rate decreased by 0.1pps (percentage points) over the quarter and by 0.7pps over the year. Although recent changes were not statistically significant (ie 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 (6.6 per cent) for April 2020 and the Republic of Ireland rate (5.6 per cent) for May 2020.
  • The proportion of people aged 16 to 64 in work (the employment rate) decreased over the quarter by 0.9pps and over the year by 0.1pps to 71.6 per cent. Although recent changes were not statistically significant, the employment rate was significantly above rates in late 2017.
  • The economic inactivity rate (the proportion of people aged 16 to 64 who were not working and not seeking or available to work) increased over the quarter by 1.0pps and over the year by 0.7pps to 26.6 per cent. Although recent changes were not statistically significant, the economic inactivity rate was significantly below rates in early 2010.
  • Put into the context of the UK, NI has the lowest employment rate of UK regions and the highest economic inactivity rate of all UK regions.


  • The Labour Force Survey estimates for March to May 2020 are based on interviews before and during lockdown. Decreases in the employment and unemployment rates, and an increase in the economic inactivity rate are shown over the quarter and year to March to May 2020. Although unemployment remains as one of the lowest on record (2.4 per cent) and the employment rate (71.6 per cent) remains relatively high, 18 per cent of employed people were temporarily away from work. Furloughed workers alongside people working fewer than their normal hours has had a large impact on the number of hours worked across the economy. The average number of hours worked per week is now the lowest on record at 27.4 hours per week, a decrease of 6.5 hours per week or 19 per cent over the year.
  • The claimant count (experimental) remained at over 60,000 people for May and June, levels last seen during 2012 and 2013, and has more than doubled since March. In the month of June the number of proposed redundancies reached a record high at almost 2,500 redundancies and a further 745 were proposed in the current month to 15 July. The number of proposed redundancies since the start of March is now 4,900. The increases have been driven by redundancies in four sectors; transport and storage, wholesale and retail trade, food and accommodation services, and manufacturing.

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

4. The Labour Force Survey estimates for March to May 2020 are based on interviews before and during lockdown. NISRA suspended all face to face household interviews in the middle of March due COVID-19. From April all LFS interviews were conducted by telephone.

5. ‘Over the quarter’ refer to comparisons between the latest quarterly estimates for the period March-May 2020 and the quarter previous to that (i.e. December-February 2020). ‘Over the year’ refer to comparisons between the latest quarterly estimates for the period March-May 2020 and those of the corresponding quarter one year previously (ie March-May 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.

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

7. 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 1.7 per cent and 3.0 per cent).

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. Those claiming unemployment-related benefits (either UC or JSA) may be wholly unemployed and seeking work, or may be employed but with low income and/or low hours, that make them eligible for unemployment-related benefit support. Under UC a broader span of claimants became eligible for unemployment-related benefit than under the previous benefit regime.

9. The recent changes in claimant count can largely be attributed to the increase in the numbers of people becoming unemployed or having their hours reduced resulting in very low earnings below the administrative earnings threshold. There may be some persons, previously not eligible for UC due to partner earnings, now eligible as a result of work allowance increases who would now be included within the count.  We are not able to identify the extent to which each group has contributed to the increase in claimant count.

10. 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.

11. 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.

12. 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.

13. 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.

14. The next Labour Market Report will be published on the NISRA website on 11 August 2020.

15. For media enquiries contact the Department for the Economy Press Office on

16. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries between 1800 hrs and 0800 hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

17. Follow us on Twitter @Economy_NI

18. Feedback is welcomed and should be addressed to:

Responsible statistician:

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

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