Labour Market Statistics

Date published: 12 June 2018

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

Northern Ireland Labour Force Survey – Young People Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET)
Northern Ireland Labour Force Survey – Young People Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET)

Key points

Labour Force Survey (LFS) unemployment increased over the quarter and decreased over the year

  • The latest NI seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for the period February-April 2018 was 3.3%, the third lowest on record. The unemployment rate increased by 0.2 percentage points (pps) from the previous quarter and decreased by 2.1 pps over the year (from 5.4%). The annual rate change was statistically significant, i.e. the recorded changes exceeded the variability expected from a sample survey of this size and would, therefore, likely reflect a real change.
  • The latest NI unemployment rate (3.3%) was below the UK average of 4.2% (the joint lowest since 1992). The NI unemployment rate was the joint lowest rate of the UK regions (with the South West) and was below the European Union (7.1%) and the Republic of Ireland (6.1%) rates for March 2018.
  • Figures for February-April 2018 estimated that 52.7% of those unemployed in NI were long-term unemployed (i.e. unemployed for one year or more), compared to 27.0% in the UK.

LFS employment rate and inactivity rate increased over the year

  • There was a decrease (0.2 pps) in the employment rate (69.7%) over the quarter and an increase over the year (0.9pps).  The change in the employment rate was not statistically significant over the quarter or the year. However the increase in the employment rate from 2013 is statistically significant.                                                      
  • The economic inactivity rate (27.9%) was unchanged over the quarter and increased by 0.7 pps over the year. The increase over the year was not statistically significant.

NI Claimant Count (Experimental Series) increased over the month

  • Universal Credit was introduced in NI in September 2017 replacing income-based Jobseekers Allowance for new claimants. On the May claimant count reference date Universal Credit was available in 12 out of 35 Job Centres in NI.
  • This is the fourth month that the claimant count included Jobseeker’s Allowance Claimants and those claimants of Universal Credit who were claiming it principally for the reason of being unemployed. The claimant count is an experimental statistic as it is still in the development phase.
  • In May 2018, the seasonally adjusted number of people on the claimant count (which includes some out-of-work claimants of Universal Credit) was 28,900 (3.1% of the workforce). This represents a decrease of 100 from the previous month’s revised figure.

Confirmed redundancies decreased over the year

  • The Department received confirmation that 189 redundancies took place in May 2018. Over the year, confirmed redundancies decreased by 14% to 2,163. Approximately one third of the confirmed redundancies occurred in the manufacturing sector.

Quarterly Employee Jobs

  • Private sector jobs increased over the quarter (1.0% or 5,760 jobs) and year (3.4% or 18,500 jobs) to their highest level since the seasonally adjusted series began in 2005. Despite the marginal quarterly and annual decrease, the number of public sector jobs remain above the series low in September 2016. (Private sector jobs total: 557,130; Public sector jobs total: 206,410)
  • The total number of employee jobs increased over the quarter (6,090 jobs) and over the year (18,610 jobs) to a series high of 763,440.
  • Increases were experienced in all broad industry sectors over the year; the services sector accounted for the majority (64%) of growth. Within the services sector the greatest increases over the year were within administrative & support service activities, and human health & social care activities sections. Together these accounted for close to half (46%) of the annual increase in service sector jobs.


  • The NI labour market continues to demonstrate low unemployment with relatively high employment and inactivity compared to recent years.
  • The unemployment rate increased marginally over the quarter. However at 3.3%, the February-April 2018 rate is the third lowest rate since records began and is significantly below rates one year ago. The NI rate is below the UK unemployment rate for the third consecutive quarter after consistently being above the UK since the end of 2013.
  • Similarly, while the employment rate decreased over the quarter it is one of the highest recorded rates for NI and significantly above rates in 2013.  At 69.7% it is below the UK rate (75.6%) and remains the lowest of the UK regions. Businesses reported an increase in employee jobs over the quarter and year to March 2018. Increases were experienced across all broad industry sectors and dominated by an increase in service sector jobs.
  • The economic inactivity rate was unchanged over the quarter and increased over the year. The February-April rate is one of the highest recorded since 2010 and the highest of the UK regions, but significantly below peak rates recorded in mid-2009.
  • The improvements seen in the local labour market over recent quarters are similar to that of the UK labour market, which is reporting the joint highest employment rate, number of jobs and joint lowest unemployment rates on record. In contrast to the NI experience however, the UK results also show the joint lowest inactivity rates on record.

Notes to editors: 

  1. The detailed statistical bulletin is available on the NISRA website
  2. The Labour Market Report is a monthly overview of key labour market statistics. It includes figures from the Labour Force Survey, the claimant count (people claiming unemployment related benefits), the Quarterly Employment Survey, the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings and official redundancy data.
  3. From March 2018 the NI claimant count figures include Jobseeker’s Allowance Claimants and those claimants of Universal Credit who were claiming it principally for the reason of being unemployed. This is an experimental series and is calculated on the same basis as the GB Claimant Count.  For more information please refer to the Further Information section of the Labour Market Report.
  4. 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 number of unemployed persons is likely to fall within 0.9% of the quoted estimate (i.e. between 2.4% and 4.2%).
  5. Employee jobs figures are taken from the Quarterly Employment Survey a survey of public sector organisations and private sector firms.
  6. 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.
  7. Further information and tables from each of the data sources are available on the NISRA Website.  
  8. For media enquiries, please contact DfE Press Office on 028 9052 9604. Outside office hours, please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07623 974 383 and your call will be returned.
  9. Feedback is welcomed and should be addressed to: Responsible statistician: Carly Gordon, Economic & Labour Market Statistics Branch (ELMS), or Tel: 028 9025 5172.

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