Labour market statistics

Date published: 18 May 2021

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

Labour market statistics
Labour market statistics

Lowest number of monthly confirmed redundancies since June 2020

  • 9,350 collective redundancies were proposed in the twelve months to the end of April, more than double the number recorded in the previous twelve months (4,590). 140 redundancies were proposed in the three month period February – April 2021 and a further 150 in the first two weeks of May.
  • During April 110 redundancies were confirmed, the lowest monthly total since June 2020. This takes the annual total to 5,780, one of the highest since 2001.

NI Claimant Count (Experimental Series) decreases over the month

  • In April 2021, the seasonally adjusted number of people on the claimant count was 57,400 (5.8% of the workforce), which is a decrease of 200 (0.3%) from the previous month’s revised figure and 10% below the recent peak in May. The claimant count remains almost double the number recorded in March 2020.

Payrolled employees decreased while employee earnings increased over the month to April

  • The number of employees receiving pay through HMRC PAYE in NI in April 2021 was 740,200, a decrease of 0.2% over the month and over the year.
  • Earnings from the HMRC PAYE indicated that NI employees had a median monthly pay of £1,826 in April 2021. This was an increase of 1.1% over the month and 9.9% over the year (from the recent low in April 2020).

The employment rate decreased over the quarter

  • The NI unemployment rate (16+) was unchanged over the quarter and increased over the year (1.2pps) to 3.6% in January-March 2021. The annual change was statistically significant and is likely to reflect real change. The NI unemployment rate was below the UK rate (4.8%).
  • The proportion of people aged 16 to 64 in work (the employment rate) decreased over the quarter (0.3pps) and the year (2.8pps) to 69.1%. The annual change was statistically significant and is likely to reflect real change. The latest employment rate recorded for the whole of the UK was 75.2%.
  • The NI economic inactivity rate (the proportion of people aged from 16 to 64 who were not working and not seeking or available to work) increased over the quarter (0.4pps) and the year (2.1pps) to 28.3%. The NI economic inactivity rate remained above the UK rate (21.0%).
  • Put into the context of the UK, NI had the second lowest unemployment rate, the lowest employment rate and the highest economic inactivity rate of all the UK regions.

Commentary

  • The latest labour market data show that employment levels (which include furloughed jobs) remain below pre-covid levels, while measures of unemployment remain above pre-covid levels.
  • The employment rate (69.1%) is now 2.8pps below the rate this time last year, and unemployment and economic inactivity rates are now 1.2pps and 2.1pps above. Although there were changes in labour market status for men and women over the year the changes for men were greater. The male employment rate decreased by 4.5pps, and unemployment and economic inactivity increased by 1.5pps and 3.5pps respectively, larger than the equivalent rate changes for females (-1.3pps, +1.0pps and +0.7pps respectively).  Most age groups saw a fall in employment over the year, however 16-24 year olds accounted for almost three-quarters of the total decrease in employment of those aged 16-64 years.
  • The HMRC payroll data is the most timely and best single, overall indicator of the labour market. The latest data shows that, following a 1.3% fall in the number of paid employees between March and April 2020, the numbers of employees has remained fairly consistent over the last year. Median monthly employee earnings have increased by 4% from March 2020 and by 10% from the recent low recorded in April 2020 to £1,826 in April 2021.
  • The pace of collective redundancy proposals slowed in early 2021, with 140 proposed in the three months February – April 2021. An uptick in redundancies has been seen however in the most recent two weeks with 150 redundancies proposed in May to date. This follows record levels in June and July, and historically high levels through to December. Provisional HMRC data shows a decrease in the number of furloughed jobs. 99,400 jobs were receiving support under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme at the end of March, a decrease of approximately 10,000 from January and February levels and considerably below levels of approximately 139,000 recorded at the start of July 2020 (the first month for which daily counts are available).

Notes to editors: 

1. The statistical bulletin and associated tables are available 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. Today’s release contains updated labour market indicators from household surveys and administrative data sources. Although the broad concepts are similar across sources, differences in reference periods, definitions and methodology exist which impact the interpretation of the statistics. Of particular note is the ‘location’ of the furloughed in the estimates. Those furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) or receiving a grant through the Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) are included in the Labour Force Survey (LFS) estimates of employment and not within the LFS unemployment estimates. Similarly, employees on the CJRS are included in the HMRC count of employees paid through payroll, and the Quarterly Employment Survey estimate of employee jobs. In contrast, a proportion of those receiving grants through CJRS and SEISS may be accessing Universal Credit unemployment benefits as a ‘top-up’ payment and are included in the experimental Claimant Count.

4. ‘Over the quarter’ refers to comparisons between the latest quarterly estimates for the period January-March 2021 and the quarter previous to that (i.e. October-December 2020). ‘Over the year’ refers to comparisons between the latest quarterly estimates for the period January-March 2021 and those of the corresponding quarter one year previously (i.e. January-March 2020). 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.

5.Estimates relating to January-March 2021 should be compared with the estimates for October-December 2020. This provides a more robust estimate than comparing with the estimates for December-February 2020, as the January and February data are included within both estimates.

6. 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 4.4%).

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. To prevent the potential identification of individual businesses, redundancy totals relating to fewer than 3 businesses are not disclosed. The Statistical Disclosure Control Policy is available here: https://www.nisra.gov.uk/publications/redundancies-background-information

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. HMRC’s statistics on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme were published on 6 May 2021 and are available here: Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme statistics: 6 May 2021 - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk). The next publication of these statistics is 3 June 2021.

14. Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme ‘Employments’ are defined according to the scheme eligibility criteria and is a jobs-based measure. An individual employed by more than one employer is counted once for each employment furloughed. Up to date information on the scheme eligibility criteria is available here: Check if you can claim for your employees' wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

15. 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.

16. The next Labour Market Report will be published on the NISRA website on 15 June 2021.

17. For media enquiries contact the Department for the Economy Press Office at: pressoffice@economy-ni.gov.uk.

18. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

19. Follow us on Twitter @Economy_NI  

20. Feedback is welcomed and should be addressed to:

Responsible statistician:

Brian Grogan,

Economic & Labour Market Statistics Branch (ELMS),

brian.grogan@nisra.gov.uk or Tel: 028 905 29311.

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