Labour Market Statistics

Date published: 11 August 2020

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

The Labour Market Statistics were published today
The Labour Market Statistics were published today

Key points

Proposed redundancies more than doubled 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.
  • 8,755 redundancies were proposed in the twelve months to the end of July, more than double the number recorded in the previous twelve months. The total number of proposed redundancies in July 2020 was 1,904, following almost 2,500 in June. A further 163 were proposed between 1 and 10 August.
  • The number of confirmed redundancies (3,112) in the most recent 12 months was 74 per cent higher than in the previous 12 months (1,785). NISRA, acting on behalf of the Department for the Economy, received confirmation that 610 redundancies took place in July 2020.

NI Claimant Count (Experimental Series) remains above 60,000 for third month

  • In July 2020, the seasonally adjusted number of people on the claimant count was 62,800 (6.8 per cent of the workforce), an increase of 500 (0.9 per cent) from the previous month’s revised figure. This is the third consecutive month that the claimant count was above 60,000; levels previously seen in 2012 and 2013.

Employee Earnings from PAYE decreased over the quarter

  • NI employees had a median monthly pay of £1,681 in the three months to June 2020, a decrease of 1.5 per cent on the previous three months to March and an increase of 0.8 per cent from the same time last year. At 1.5 per cent, this is the largest quarterly decrease since 2014.

Vacancies

  • During April-June 2020, 7,900 vacancies were notified to the Department for Communities, fewer than half the number in the previous quarter and the same period a year earlier.

NI economic inactivity rate increased while the employment rate decreased over the quarter

  • The latest NI seasonally adjusted unemployment rate (the proportion of economically active people aged 16+ who were unemployed) for the period April-June 2020 was estimated from the Labour Force Survey at 2.5 per cent. This followed a marginal increase of 0.1pps (percentage points) over the quarter and a decrease of 0.6pps 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 proportion of people aged 16 to 64 in work (the employment rate) decreased over the quarter by 0.7pps and over the year by 0.4pps to 71.7 per cent. Although recent changes were not statistically significant, the employment rate was significantly above rates in 2018.
  • 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 0.6pps and over the year by 0.9pps to 26.4 per cent. Although recent changes were not statistically significant, the economic inactivity rate was significantly below rates in late 2017.
  • Put into the context of the UK, NI has the lowest employment and unemployment rates and the highest economic inactivity rate of all the UK regions.

Commentary

  • The Labour Force Survey estimates for April to June 2020 are based on interviews since lockdown. The headline employment rate decreased over the quarter and the year, but at 71.7 per cent remains relatively high and above rates in 2018. However, within those included in the employed total, 21 per cent were temporarily away from work and 40 per cent were working fewer than their usual hours. This 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 27.1 hours per week, a decrease of 6.8 hours per week or 20 per cent over the year.
  • While the employment rate has decreased over the quarter the unemployment and economic inactivity rates have increased. The unemployment rate (those available and looking for work) increased marginally over the quarter but still remains one of the lowest rates on record. The economic inactivity rate increased over the quarter and year to April to June 2020.
  • Vacancy data showed a sizeable fall in demand for labour during the same period. The number of vacancies notified to the Department for Communities Jobs and Benefit Offices in April to June was less than half that in the previous quarter, with April showing the lowest number of vacancy postings since records began in 2014. Earnings for the same period fell by 1.5 per cent to £1,681 on average per month.
  • More recent figures for July show a continuation of recent trends. The claimant count (experimental) remained above 60,000 in July, following similar levels in May and June. Counts above 60,000 were last seen during 2012 and 2013 and are more than double the number in March. In the month of July the number of proposed redundancies reached almost 2,000, following almost 2,500 in June, taking the number of proposed redundancies since the start of March above 6,000. July also saw more than 600 completed (confirmed) redundancies, the vast majority of which related to proposed redundancies between March and June.

Notes to editors: 

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

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 April to June 2020 are based on interviews 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 April-June 2020 and the quarter previous to that (ie January-March 2020). ‘Over the year’ refer to comparisons between the latest quarterly estimates for the period April-June 2020 and those of the corresponding quarter one year previously (i.e. April-June 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 April-June 2020 should be compared with the estimates for April-June 2019 as this provides a more robust estimate than comparing with the estimates for March-May 2020 as the April and May 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 1.8 per cent and 3.1 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 15 September 2020.

15. For media enquiries contact the Department for the Economy Press Office on pressoffice@economy-ni.gov.uk.

16. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries between 1800hrs and 0800hrs 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

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

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