Labour Market Statistics

Date published: 13 October 2020

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

Labour Market Statistics
Labour Market Statistics

Proposed redundancies almost doubled over the year

  • 8,860 collective redundancies were proposed in the twelve months to the end of September, almost 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, with almost 2,000 redundancy notifications received in the last three months.
  • During September, 1,150 redundancies were proposed, an increase on the previous month’s total of 700, and 460 redundancies were confirmed, a decrease from the total of 820 confirmed in July. A further 570 were proposed in the current month to 12th October.

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

  • In September 2020, the seasonally adjusted number of people on the claimant count was 62,000 (6.7% of the workforce). This remains unchanged from the previous month’s revised figure and is the fifth month that the claimant count was above 60,000; levels previously seen in 2012 and 2013.

Payrolled employees decreased and employee earnings increased over the month

  • The number of employees receiving pay through HMRC PAYE in NI in August 2020 was 742,300, a decrease of 0.3% over the month and 0.7% over the year. The flash estimate for September shows an increase of 0.2% on August’s figure to 744,000.
  • Earnings from the HMRC PAYE indicated that NI employees had a median monthly pay of £1,749 in August 2020, an increase of 0.3% over the month and 4.0% from the same time last year. The flash estimate for September shows an increase of 0.5% on August’s figure to £1,757.

Highest quarterly increase in NI unemployment rate since October 2012

  • The latest NI seasonally adjusted unemployment rate (the proportion of economically active people aged 16+ who were unemployed) for the period June-August 2020 was estimated from the Labour Force Survey at 3.7%. The unemployment rate increased over the quarter by 1.2 percentage points (pps) and by 0.8pps over the year. The quarterly change was statistically significant, i.e. the recorded change exceeded the variability expected from a sample survey of this size and was likely to reflect real change.
  • The proportion of people aged 16 to 64 in work (the employment rate) decreased over the quarter by 0.3pps and over the year by 0.8pps to 70.6%. 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 16 to 64 who were not working and not seeking or available to work) decreased over the quarter by 0.7pps and increased over the year by 0.2pps to 26.6%. 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 and unemployment rates and the highest economic inactivity rate of all the UK regions.


New data from HMRC’s Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Real Time Information System released for the first time for Northern Ireland today shows a fall of 1.7% in the number of paid employees between March and April. Since then there has been a small increase in the number of paid employees, however, the September total remains 1.3% lower than in March and 0.4% lower than September last year.

The claimant count (experimental) shows a continuation of trends since May and remained above 60,000 in September, more than double the number in March. Following record high proposed redundancies in June and July (4,410), the pace of proposed redundancies slowed somewhat in August (700), but exceeded 1,000 in September. In line with the upsurge in proposed redundancies between April and July the number of confirmed redundancies has totalled almost 2,000 in the last three months.

Labour Force Survey data for the earlier period of June-August shows the unemployment (3.7%) rate increased, and the economic inactivity (26.6%) and employment (70.6%) rates decreased over the quarter.

There has been some recovery in the total number of hours worked across the economy; increasing by 6% over the most recent quarter after the record fall of 18% between December-February and March–May. That said, the total number of hours worked per week during June-August remains 13% below, and the employment rate is 1.8 percentage points below, that at the beginning of 2020.

The increase in the unemployment rate of 1.2pps to 3.7% between March-May and June-August is notable as the largest quarterly increase since 2012. The data indicate that the increase was driven by those under 35 years. Within this the youth unemployment rate (16-24 years) doubled to an estimated at 11.8%.

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 and businesses 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 and for the first time employee estimates from HMRC’s PAYE Real Time Information System.
  4. 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. This has impacted the composition of the achieved sample. To account for this the weighting methodology has changed and today’s release sees a revision of Labour Force Survey estimates back to January 2020. More detail on the impact of the revisions is available on the Background Information - LFS page of the NISRA website.
  5. ‘Over the quarter’ refer to comparisons between the latest quarterly estimates for the period June-August 2020 and the quarter previous to that (i.e. March-May 2020). ‘Over the year’ refer to comparisons between the latest quarterly estimates for the period June-August 2020 and those of the corresponding quarter one year previously (i.e. June-August 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 June-August 2020 should be compared with the estimates for March-May as this provides a more robust estimate than comparing with the estimates for May-July 2020 as the June and July 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 0.8% of the quoted estimate (i.e. between 2.8% and 4.5%).
  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 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.
  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 the number of paid employees and 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 10th November 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 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.
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  17. Feedback is welcomed and should be addressed to:
    Responsible statistician:
    Sarah Fyffe,
    Economic & Labour Market Statistics Branch (ELMS), or Tel: 028 905 29449.

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