Labour Market Statistics

Date published: 15 July 2021

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

Labour market statistics
Labour market statistics

Key Points

Highest annual total of confirmed redundancies since 2001

  • 490 redundancies were proposed during June 2021, taking the total number of collective redundancies in the last twelve months to 7,180, similar to the number recorded in the previous twelve months (6,940). A further 850 redundancies have been proposed to date in July.
  • During June 2021, 300 redundancies were confirmed, taking the annual total to 6,180, the highest since 2001.

NI Claimant Count (Experimental Series) decreased for the fourth consecutive month

  • In June 2021, the seasonally adjusted number of people on the claimant count was 51,200 (5.2 per cent of the workforce), which is a decrease of 2,000 (3.8 per cent ) from the previous month’s revised figure and 17.0 per cent  below June 2020. The claimant count remains almost 70 per cent  above the number recorded in March 2020.

Payrolled employees now higher than pre-COVID

  • The number of employees receiving pay through HMRC PAYE in NI in June 2021 was 757,200, an increase of 1.4 per cent  over the month and 2.6 per cent  over the year. This is the highest on record and the first time that employee numbers were above pre-COVID levels.
  • Earnings from the HMRC PAYE indicated that NI employees had a median monthly pay of £1,822 in June 2021, an increase of £8 (0.4 per cent ) over the month and £97 (5.6 per cent ) over the year.

The unemployment rate was unchanged over the quarter and up over the year

  • The latest NI seasonally adjusted unemployment rate (the proportion of economically active people aged 16+ who were unemployed) for the period March-May 2021 was estimated from the Labour Force Survey at 3.6 per cent . The unemployment rate remained unchanged over the quarter and increased by 1.1 percentage points (pps) over the year. The annual change was statistically significant.
  • The proportion of people aged 16 to 64 in work (the employment rate) increased over the quarter by 0.4pps and decreased over the year by 0.7pps to 70.3 per cent . Neither the quarterly nor annual changes were statistically significant.
  • 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 0.4pps and over the year by 0.1pps to 27.1 per cent . Neither the quarterly nor annual changes were statistically significant.
  • 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.


  • The latest labour market data mostly show improvements over the quarter. Two indicators stand out. HMRC payroll data show the number of employees has surpassed pre-COVID levels for the first time while the number of proposed redundancies has continued to increase through May, June and the first half of July.
  • The HMRC payroll data is the most timely and best single, overall indicator of the labour market.  Data for June show that, the number of employees is above pre-COVID levels for the first time (0.7 per cent  above the peak in February 2020) and the highest on record. Provisional HMRC data show the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme supported 59,000 jobs at the end of May (equivalent to a take-up rate of 8 per cent ).  This was a decrease from 93,000 supported jobs at the end of April and equivalent to approximately half the number of jobs supported in January.
  • Households reported, via the Labour Force Survey, some improvements in the labour market over the quarter to March-May 2021 with an increase in the employment rate, no change in the unemployment rate, and a decrease in the economic inactivity rate.  Compared to the pre-pandemic rates (December – February 2020) the employment rate is 2.2 percentage points (pps) below, while the unemployment rate and economic inactivity rates are 1.1pps and 1.4pps higher respectively.

The recent increase in redundancy proposals in May and June has continued into July with 150 redundancies proposed in May, 490 proposed in June, and a further 850 in the first two weeks of July. These levels of proposed redundancies remain below the peak months one year ago (June: 2,470 and July: 1,940).

Notes to editors: 

  1. Today’s release is an abridged report containing an Executive Summary and tables. The statistical report and associated tables are available at the Labour Market Overview page of 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, 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 March-May 2021 and the quarter previous to that (i.e. December-February 2021). ‘Over the year’ refer to comparisons between the latest quarterly estimates for the period March-May 2021 and those of the corresponding quarter one year previously (ie March-May 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 March-May 2021 should be compared with the estimates for December-February 2021. This provides a more robust estimate than comparing with the estimates for February-April 2021, as the March and April 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 1.1 per cent of the quoted estimate (ie between 2.5 per cent  and 4.7 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. 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 at the  Redundancies background information page on the NISRA website.
  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 1st July 2021 and are available on the GOV.UK website. The next publication of these statistics is 29 July 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 on the GOV.UK website.
  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 Tuesday 17 August 2021.
  17. For media enquiries contact the Department for the Economy Press Office at:
  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.
  20. 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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