Labour market statistics

Date published: 15 June 2021

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

Labour market statistics
Labour market statistics

Highest annual total of confirmed redundancies since 2001

  • 150 redundancies were proposed during May 2021, taking the total number of collective redundancies in the last twelve months to 9,160, almost double the number recorded in the previous twelve months (4,600). A further 360 redundancies have been proposed in the first two weeks of June.
  • During May 280 redundancies were confirmed, taking the annual total to 5,920, the highest since 2001.

NI Claimant Count (Experimental Series) decreases for the third consecutive month

  • In May 2021, the seasonally adjusted number of people on the claimant count was 54,300 (5.5 per cent of the workforce), which is a decrease of 1,900 (3.4 per cent) from the previous month’s revised figure and 14.8 per cent below the recent peak in May 2020. The claimant count remains almost 80 per cent above the number recorded in March 2020.

Payrolled employees highest since March 2020

  • The number of employees receiving pay through HMRC PAYE in NI in May 2021 was 745,900, an increase of 0.7 per cent over the month and 0.9 per cent over the year. This is the highest total since March 2020.
  • Earnings from the HMRC PAYE indicated that NI employees had a median monthly pay of £1,810 in May 2021, a decrease of 0.8 per cent over the month and an increase of 8.4 per cent over the year.

The unemployment and economic inactivity rates decrease over the quarter

  • The latest NI seasonally adjusted unemployment rate (the proportion of economically active people aged 16+ who were unemployed) for the period February-April 2021 was estimated from the Labour Force Survey at 3.1 per cent. The unemployment rate decreased over the quarter by 0.6 percentage points (pps) and increased by 0.8pps over the year.
  • The proportion of people aged 16 to 64 in work (the employment rate) increased over the quarter by 0.5pps and decreased over the year by 1.4pps to 69.8 per cent.
  • 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 0.1pps and increased over the year by 0.8pps to 27.9 per cent.
  • Put into the context of the UK, NI had the lowest unemployment rate, the lowest employment rate and the highest economic inactivity rate of all the UK regions.

Quarterly increase in employee jobs - first time since December 2019

  • The number of employee jobs in March 2021 was estimated at 771,410. This was an increase of 2,020 jobs (+0.3 per cent) over the quarter and a decrease of 7,290 jobs (-0.9 per cent) over the year. Neither the quarterly nor the annual changes in employee jobs were found to be statistically significant.
  • March 2021 marked the first quarterly increase in employee jobs since December 2019, following four consecutive quarters of decline. The first annual decline in employee jobs since 2012 was noted in September 2020 and since then there have been three consecutive quarters of annual decline.
  • The annualised growth rate of total employee jobs has fallen every quarter between March 2018 (+2.3 per cent) and March 2021 (-0.8 per cent). March 2021 marked the second consecutive quarter of negative annualised growth rate since December 2012.
  • In the last five years, employee jobs have increased by 5.5 per cent (+40,380 jobs). There has been an increase of 11.6 per cent (+80,120 jobs) from the low in March 2012.
  • Quarterly increases in employee jobs were seen within the services (+2,240 jobs) and manufacturing (+280 jobs) industry sectors to March 2021. Both the construction and other industries sectors reported a decrease over the quarter (-330 jobs and -170 jobs respectively).
  • All four broad industry sectors experienced decreases in employee jobs over the year to March 2021, with the services sector reporting the biggest annual decline (-5,860 jobs).
  • Private sector jobs increased marginally over the quarter (+0.1 per cent or +400 jobs) but decreased over the year (-1.6 per cent or -9,260 jobs) to 557,390 jobs in March 2021. Public sector jobs increased over both the quarter (+0.3 per cent or +600 jobs) and the year (+0.9 per cent or +1,890 jobs) to 213,290 jobs in March 2021.


  • The latest labour market data mostly show improvements over the quarter. However, employment levels (which include furloughed jobs) remain below pre-covid levels, while measures of unemployment remain above pre-covid levels.
  • The HMRC payroll data is the most timely and best single, overall indicator of the labour market. The latest data show that, the number of employees has increased for six consecutive months, with an increase of 1.0 per cent (7,600 employees) in the last two months alone. Employee numbers are now at their highest since March 2020, but remain 0.7 per cent below the February 2020 level. Provisional HMRC data show the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme supported approximately 90,000 jobs at the end of April (equivalent to a take-up rate of 12 per cent). This continues the downward trend, seen in February and March, from approximately 117,000 supported jobs during January. 
  • Businesses reported, via the Quarterly Employment Survey, that employee jobs increased over the quarter to 771,410 jobs in March 2021 but remained below the March 2020 total. The quarterly increase (0.3 per cent) was the first seen since December 2019. Over the year, employee jobs decreased in all four broad industry sectors, with the services sector experiencing the largest annual decrease (-5,860 jobs).
  • Households reported, via the Labour Force Survey, improvements in the labour market over the quarter to February-April 2021 with an increase in the employment rate, a decrease in the unemployment rate and a marginal decrease in the economic inactivity rate. Despite these improvements, the employment rate is 1.4 percentage points (pps) below the rate one year ago and 2.5pps below the pre-pandemic rate in November-January 2020, while the economic inactivity rate is 0.8pps above one year ago and 2.0pps above November-January 2020.
  • Although most indicators have shown improvements in the short-term, there has been a recent uptick in redundancy proposals with 150 redundancies proposed in May and 360 proposed in the first two weeks of June. These levels of proposed redundancies remain well below the 2020 average of 920 redundancies per month.

Notes to editors: 


1. The statistical bulletin and associated tables are available at:Labour Market overview

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. Today’s release contains updated labour market indicators from household surveys, business 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’ refer to comparisons between the latest quarterly estimates for the period February-April 2021 and the quarter previous to that (i.e. November-January 2021). ‘Over the year’ refer to comparisons between the latest quarterly estimates for the period February-April 2021 and those of the corresponding quarter one year previously (ie February-April 2020). 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.

5. Estimates relating to February-April 2021 should be compared with the estimates for November-January 2021. This provides a more robust estimate than comparing with the estimates for January-March 2021, as the February and March 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 1.0 per cent of the quoted estimate (i.e. between 2.1 per cent and 4.1 per cent).

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. 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 1st March 2021. Those who are furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) are included in employee jobs estimates.

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.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: Redundancies - background information

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 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.

14. HMRC’s statistics on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme were published on 3rd June 2021 and are available here: Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme statistics - 3 June 2021. The next publication of these statistics is 1st July 2021.

15. 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: Claim for wage costs through the coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

16. 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.

17. The next Labour Market Report will be published on the NISRA website on Thursday 15 July 2021.

18. For media enquiries contact the Department for the Economy Press Office at:

19. 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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21. Feedback is welcomed and should be addressed to:

Responsible statistician:

Brian Grogan,
Economic and Labour Market Statistics (ELMS),

or Tel: 028 905 29311

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