Labour market statistics

Date published: 14 September 2021

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

Labour market statistics
Labour market statistics

August’s proposed redundancies lowest since April

  • 80 redundancies were proposed during August 2021, taking the total number of proposed collective redundancies in the last twelve months to 5,460, 40% less than the number recorded in the previous twelve months (9,160).
  • During August 2021, 130 redundancies were confirmed, taking the annual total to 5,060.  This annual total was 31% higher than in the previous year (3,880).

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

  • In August 2021, the seasonally adjusted number of people on the claimant count was 48,500 (4.9% of the workforce), which is a decrease of 1,000 (1.9%) from the previous month’s revised figure.  The August claimant count is 24% below the recent peak in May 2020, and 59% higher than the pre-pandemic count in March 2020.

Payrolled employees now higher than pre-COVID for the third consecutive month

  • The number of employees receiving pay through HMRC PAYE in NI in August 2021 was 764,300, an increase of 0.5% over the month and 3.7% over the year.  This is the highest on record and the third consecutive month that employee numbers were above pre-COVID levels.
  • Earnings from the HMRC PAYE indicated that NI employees had a median monthly pay of £1,830 in August 2021, a decrease of £48 (2.6%) over the month and an increase of £81 (4.6%) over the year.

The unemployment rate increased over the quarter and over the year

  • The latest NI seasonally adjusted unemployment rate (the proportion of economically active people aged 16+ who were unemployed) for the period May-July 2021 was estimated from the Labour Force Survey at 4.0%.  The unemployment rate increased by 1.0 percentage points (pps) over the quarter and increased by 1.0pps over the year.  The quarterly change was statistically significant and likely to reflect real change.
  • The proportion of people aged 16 to 64 in work (the employment rate) increased over the quarter by 0.2pps and over the year by 0.3pps to 71.2%.  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 1.1pps and over the year by 1.1pps to 25.7%.  Neither the quarterly nor annual changes were statistically significant.

Employee jobs increased over the quarter but decreased over the year

  • Following four consecutive quarters of decline in employee jobs between March 2020 and December 2020, there have been marginal increases in employee jobs in March 2021 and June 2021.  
  • The number of employee jobs in June 2021 was estimated at 771,680.  This was an increase of 1,190 jobs (+0.2%) over the quarter and a decrease of 4,860 jobs (-0.6%) over the year.  Neither the quarterly nor the annual changes in employee jobs were found to be statistically significant.
  • Quarterly increases in employee jobs were seen within the services (+1,360 jobs), manufacturing (+310 jobs) and other industries (+40 jobs) sectors to June 2021.  The construction sector reported a decrease over the quarter (-520 jobs).
  • All four broad industry sectors experienced decreases in employee jobs over the year to June 2021, with the services sector reporting the biggest annual decline (-2,910 jobs).
  • Private sector jobs increased marginally over the quarter (+0.1% or +740 jobs) but decreased over the year (-1.1% or -6,310 jobs) to 556,820 jobs in June 2021.  Public sector jobs increased over both the quarter (+0.3%, or +580 jobs) and the year (+0.6%, or +1,250 jobs) to 214,710 jobs in June 2021.


  • Labour market indicators continue to show improvements over the short-term, with increases in the employment rate, number of employee jobs and payrolled employees over the quarter.
  • The latest HMRC payroll data show that, the number of employees has increased for nine consecutive months, with an increase of 2.3% (16,900 employees) in the last three months alone.  Employee numbers for August are now at their highest level on record and are 1.5% above those recorded in March 2020 pre-COVID.
  • Provisional HMRC data show the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme supported approximately 36,100 jobs at the end of July (equivalent to a take-up rate of 5%) while the number of proposed collective redundancies in August decreased substantially to 80 following increasing numbers of redundancy proposals from May to July (150, 490, and 850).
  • There have been marginal increases in employee jobs in March 2021 and June 2021 following four consecutive quarters of decline in employee jobs between March 2020 and December 2020. The June 2021 total at 771,680 jobs however remains below the June 2020 and pre-pandemic totals. Employee jobs decreased over the year in all four broad industry sectors, with the services sector experiencing the largest annual decrease (-2,910 jobs).
  • The Labour Force Survey shows the total number of hours worked (May-July 2021) has increased by 14% over the year, reflecting the lower number of employed people who are temporarily away from work or working zero hours compared to one year earlier.  Compared to the pre-pandemic levels in November-January 2020, the total number of hours worked in May-July was 6% below, the employment rate remained 1.1pps below, whilst the unemployment rate remained 1.6pps above.  The economic inactivity rate is 0.2pps below the pre-pandemic level in November-January 2020.

Notes to editors: 

Notes to editors:

  1. The statistical report and associated tables are available on the NISRA website.            
  2. The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency wishes to thank the participating households and businesses for taking part in the Labour Force Survey and Quarterly Employment 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 May-July 2021 and the quarter preceding that (i.e. February-April 2021).  ‘Over the year’ refer to comparisons between the latest quarterly estimates for the period May-July 2021 and those of the corresponding quarter one year previously (i.e. May-July 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 May-July 2021 should be compared with the estimates for February-April 2021.  This provides a more robust estimate than comparing with the estimates for April-June 2021, as the May and June 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 0.8pps of the quoted estimate (i.e. between 3.2% and 4.8%).
  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 1 June 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:
  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 9 September 2021 and are available here:  The next publication of these statistics is 7 October 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:
  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 Tuesday 12 October 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.
  20. Follow us on Twitter @Economy_NI
  21. Feedback is welcomed and should be addressed to:
    Responsible statistician:
    Mark McFetridge,
    Economic & Labour Market Statistics (ELMS), or Tel: 028 902 55172.

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