Labour market statistics

Date published: 10 November 2020

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

Further Education Outcomes Report
Further Education Outcomes Report

Proposed redundancies more than doubled over the year

  • 9,600 collective redundancies were proposed in the twelve months to the end of October, over 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 over 3,200 redundancy notifications received in the last four months.
  • During October, 820 redundancies were proposed, a decrease on the previous month’s total of 1,150, and 1,240 redundancies were confirmed, an increase from the total of 460 confirmed in September and the highest monthly total this year. A further 710 were proposed in the current month to 6th November.

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

  • In October 2020, the seasonally adjusted number of people on the claimant count was 60,200 (6.5% of the workforce). This is a decrease of 0.7% from the previous month’s revised figure and is the sixth month that the claimant count was above 60,000; levels previously seen in 2012 and 2013.

Payrolled employees and employee earnings increased over the month to October

  • The number of employees receiving pay through HMRC PAYE in NI in September 2020 was 742,400, an increase of 0.1% over the month and a decrease of 0.7% over the year. The flash estimate for October shows a decrease of 0.1% on September’s figure to 741,700.
  • Earnings from the HMRC PAYE indicated that NI employees had a median monthly pay of £1,764 in September 2020, an increase of 0.7% over the month and 4.9% from the same time last year. The flash estimate for October shows an increase of 0.3% on September’s figure to £1,769.

The unemployment rate increased significantly over the quarter and year

  • The latest NI seasonally adjusted unemployment rate (the proportion of economically active people aged 16+ who were unemployed) for the period July-September 2020 was estimated from the Labour Force Survey at 3.6%. The unemployment rate increased over the quarter by 1.0 percentage points (pps) and by 1.0pps over the year. The quarterly and annual changes were 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 0.5pps and over the year by 1.7pps to 70.5%. 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 0.3pps and increased over the year by 0.9pps to 26.8%. 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.


There has been a small increase in the number of paid employees (as per HMRC data) since the fall of 1.7% between March and April this year. However, the October total remains 1.6% lower than in March and 0.9% lower than October last year.

The experimental claimant count, which includes claimants who are wholly unemployed and seeking work, as well as others who may be employed but with low earnings that make them eligible for unemployment related benefit support, shows a continuation of trends since May. The number claiming unemployment related benefits remained above 60,000 in October, more than double the number in March. Following record high proposed redundancies in June and July (4,410), the pace of proposed collective redundancies slowed somewhat in August (700), September (1,150) and October (820). The large number of proposed redundancies in April to July has translated into confirmed redundancies from July onwards (3,200) with over 1,200 redundancies confirmed in the month of October.

Labour Force Survey data for the earlier period of July-September shows the unemployment (3.6%) rate increased, and the economic inactivity (26.8%) and employment (70.5%) rates decreased over the quarter.

While the employment rate decreased over the quarter and the year, there has been some recovery in the total number of hours worked across the economy; increasing by 11% over the most recent quarter after the record fall of 19% between January-March and April-June. That said, the total number of hours worked per week during July-September remains 11% below the total at the beginning of 2020. 

The increase in the unemployment rate of 1.0pps to 3.6% between April-June and July-September was statistically significant. The data indicate that the increase over the quarter was driven by those under 35 years. Within this the youth unemployment rate (16-24 years) was estimated at 11.5% in July-September 2020.

Notes to editors: 

  1. The statistical bulletin and associated tables are available at:
  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 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 here.
  5. ‘Over the quarter’ refer to comparisons between the latest quarterly estimates for the period July-September 2020 and the quarter previous to that (i.e. April-June 2020). ‘Over the year’ refer to comparisons between the latest quarterly estimates for the period July-September 2020 and those of the corresponding quarter one year previously (i.e. July-September 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 July-September 2020 should be compared with the estimates for April-June as this provides a more robust estimate than comparing with the estimates for June-August 2020 as the July and August 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 2.7% and 4.4%).
  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 15th December 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.
  17. Follow us on Twitter @Economy_NI
  18. 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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