Labour Market Statistics

Date published: 15 September 2020

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

Labour market statistics
Labour market statistics

Key points

Proposed and confirmed 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.
  • 9,160 redundancies were proposed in the twelve months to the end of August, more than double the number recorded in the previous twelve months. Record high numbers were recorded in June and July, and this is now translating into confirmed redundancies, which have started to increase following a period of relatively low numbers between March and June. The number of confirmed redundancies (3,880) in the most recent twelve months was more than double the previous 12 months (1,780).
  • In the six months since March, the breadth of proposed redundancies has increased with notifications received from 15 of the 21 industry sectors and around 90 different employers, compared to 6 sectors and around 20 employers in the previous six months.
  • During August, 700 redundancies were proposed, a decrease on the previous month’s revised total of 1,940, and 820 redundancies were confirmed, an increase from the revised total of 670 in July. A further 880 were proposed in the current month to 14 September.

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

  • In August 2020, the seasonally adjusted number of people on the claimant count was 62,700 (6.8 per cent of the workforce). This represents an increase of 800 (1.2 per cent) from the previous month’s revised figure. This is the fourth month that the claimant count was above 60,000; levels previously seen in 2012 and 2013.

Employee Earnings from PAYE increased over the quarter and the year

  • NI employees had a median monthly pay of £1,706 in the three months to July 2020, an increase of 0.3 per cent (£5) on the previous three months to April and an increase of 1.8 per cent (£30) from the same time last year. In comparison, earnings in the UK decreased over the quarter by 0.1 per cent (£1) and increased over the year by 0.8 per cent (£15).

NI unemployment 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 May-July 2020 was estimated from the Labour Force Survey at 2.9 per cent. The unemployment rate increased over the quarter by 0.6 percentage points (pps) and was unchanged over the year. The quarterly change was statistically significant, ie 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 (2.9 per cent) was below the UK rate (4.1 per cent), the European Union (27) rate (6.7 per cent) for May 2020 and the Republic of Ireland rate (5.3 per cent) for June 2020.

Employment and economic inactivity rates decreased over the quarter

  • The proportion of people aged 16 to 64 in work (the employment rate) decreased over the quarter by 0.1pps and decreased over the year by 0.5pps to 71.5 per cent. Although recent changes were not statistically significant, the employment rate was significantly above rates in 2017.
  • The economic inactivity rate (the proportion of people aged from 16 to 64 who were not working and not seeking or available to work) decreased over the quarter by 0.4pps and increased over the year by 0.4pps to 26.3 per cent. Although recent changes were not statistically significant, the economic inactivity rate was significantly below rates in 2017.
  • 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.

First quarterly decline in employee jobs since the end of 2015

  • Estimates from the Quarterly Employment Survey June 2020 indicate that employee jobs decreased marginally over the quarter (-0.2 per cent or -1,540 jobs) to 779,880 jobs. Whilst there was an increase (0.6 per cent or 4,570 jobs) over the year in employee jobs, the rate of annual growth has generally been slowing since the highest annual growth rate recorded in December 2017. Neither the quarterly nor the annual changes in employee jobs were found to be statistically significant.
  • The quarterly decline in employee jobs from the peak in March is the first decrease since December 2015, and consisted of a decrease within the manufacturing, construction and services sectors to June 2020.
  • Manufacturing was the only broad industry sector to experience a decrease in employee jobs over the year of 2.7 per cent (-2,370 jobs), following four consecutive quarters of decline since the peak in June 2019.
  • The industry sections contributing most to the quarterly decline were administrative and support activities (-2,900 jobs) and accommodation and food service activities (-1,360 jobs). These were slightly offset by growth over the quarter in human health and social work activities (2,200 jobs) and wholesale and retail trade (780 jobs). These four industries are also key contributors to change for the UK as a whole.
  • Private sector jobs fell over the quarter (0.2 per cent or 1,000 jobs) and increased over the year (0.3 per cent or 1,960 jobs). This was the lowest rate of annual growth in private sector jobs since September 2012. Public sector jobs increased over the quarter and year to June 2020. Since September 2017, there has been twelve consecutive quarters of annual growth in public sector jobs to June 2020. The number of public sector jobs is estimated at 212,700 and remains 6.8% below its highest level in September 2009.
  • The survey date for QES for quarter 2 was 1st June 2020, and those furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme are included in employee jobs estimates.

Commentary

  • Since the first case of the coronavirus was recorded in Northern Ireland at the end of February the headline employment rate has remained relatively high, at rates above 71 per cent, the economic inactivity rate has remained below 27 per cent and similarly unemployment has remained low during this period, below 3 per cent.
  • Over the most recent quarter, employment (71.5 per cent) and economic inactivity (26.3 per cent) rates decreased and the unemployment rate (2.9 per cent) increased. The most recent employment rate estimated for May-July 2020 represented a decrease over the quarter and the year, but remains above rates in 2017. Within those included in the employed total, it is important to note, almost two-fifths (37 per cent) were working fewer than their usual hours and half of those (19 per cent) were temporarily away from work they expected to return to. This has had a large impact on the number of hours worked across the economy; the average number of hours worked at 28.1 hours per week is a decrease of 5.5 hours per week or 16 per cent over the year.
  • Notably the most recent estimates from the Labour Force Survey show an increase in the unemployment rate of 0.6pps to 2.9 per cent between February-April and May-July, the first statistically significant quarterly increase in the unemployment rate since October 2012. The data indicate that the quarterly increase was driven by those under 35 years with the youth unemployment rate (16-24 years) estimated at 8.2 per cent. Similarly employment and inactivity rates of those under 35 years worsened (decreasing and increasing respectively) over the quarter.
  • The claimant count (experimental) shows a continuation of trends since May and remained above 60,000 in August, more than double the number in March. One important difference contributing to the divergence since April between LFS and Claimant count, is that those furloughed would be included within the LFS employment estimates as ‘temporarily away from work’, and not the LFS unemployed estimates. In contrast, those who are furloughed could potentially be included within the Universal Credit ‘searching for work’ conditionality due to reduced earnings and therefore be counted within the experimental claimant count.
  • Businesses reported via the Quarterly Employment Survey that employee jobs decreased over the quarter but increased over the year to 779,880 jobs. The quarterly decline in employee jobs from the peak in March is the first decrease since December 2015. This quarterly decline to June 2020 was driven by decreases in the manufacturing, construction and services sectors. The rate of annual growth has also generally been slowing since the highest annual growth rate recorded in December 2017. Manufacturing was the only broad industry sector to experience a decrease in employee jobs over the year of 2.7 per cent (-2,370 jobs), following four consecutive quarterly decreases. The survey date for QES for quarter 2 was 1st June 2020, and those furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme are included in employee jobs estimates.
  • Whilst private sector jobs increased over the year (0.3 per cent or 1,960 jobs), it was the lowest rate of annual growth since September 2012. Public sector jobs increased over the quarter and year to June 2020. Since September 2017, there has been twelve consecutive quarters of annual growth in public sector jobs to June 2020.

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 and businesses for taking part in the Labour Force Survey and 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, Quarterly Employment Survey, official redundancy data, experimental claimant count data and experimental earnings estimates from HMRC’s PAYE Real Time Information System.
  4. NISRA suspended all face to face household interviews in the middle of March due to 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 May-July 2020 and the quarter previous to that (ie February-April 2020). ‘Over the year’ refer to comparisons between the latest quarterly estimates for the period May-July 2020 and those of the corresponding quarter one year previously (ie May-July 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.
  6. Estimates relating to May-July 2020 should be compared with the estimates for February-April as this provides a more robust estimate than comparing with the estimates for April-June 2020 as the May and June 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 0.7 per cent of the quoted estimate (ie between 2.2 per cent and 3.6 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. 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. The QES survey date was the 1st of June 2020. Those who are furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) are included in employee jobs estimates.
  11. 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 impending redundancies of 20 or more employees. Companies who propose fewer than 20 redundancies are not required to notify the Department, therefore 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. The next Labour Market Report will be published on the NISRA website on 13 October 2020.
     
  16. For media enquiries contact the Department for the Economy Press Office on pressoffice@economy-ni.gov.uk.
     
  17. 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.
     
  18. Follow us on Twitter @Economy_NI
     
  19. 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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