Labour market statistics

Date published: 12 October 2021

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

Labour market statistics
Labour market statistics

Key points

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

  • The number of employees receiving pay through HMRC PAYE in NI in September 2021 was 765,600, an increase of 0.3 per cent over the month and 4.0 per cent over the year. This is the highest on record and the fourth consecutive month that employee numbers have been above pre-COVID levels.
  • Earnings from the HMRC PAYE indicated that NI employees had a median monthly pay of £1,831 in September 2021, an increase of £7 (0.4 per cent) over the month and an increase of £67 (3.8 per cent) over the year.

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

  • In September 2021, the seasonally adjusted number of people on the claimant count was 47,900 (4.9 per cent of the workforce), which is a decrease of 200 (0.5 per cent) from the previous month’s revised figure.  The September claimant count is 25 per cent below the recent peak in May 2020, and 57 per cent higher than the pre-pandemic count in March 2020.

Lowest rolling 12-month total of proposed redundancies since late 2019

  • During September 2021, 130 redundancies were confirmed, taking the annual total to 4,730. This annual total was 63 per cent higher than in the previous year (2,900).
  • Over the year from 1 October 2020 to 30 September 2021, 4,310 redundancies were proposed, 51 per cent less than in the previous 12 months.

Labour Force Survey headline measures

  • The latest NI seasonally adjusted unemployment rate (the proportion of economically active people aged 16+ who were unemployed) for the period June-August 2021 was estimated from the Labour Force Survey at 4.1 per cent.  The unemployment rate increased by 0.5 percentage points (pps) over the quarter and increased by 0.5pps over the year. Neither the quarterly nor annual changes were statistically significant.
  • The proportion of people aged 16 to 64 in work (the employment rate) increased over the quarter by 0.8pps and was unchanged over the year at 71.1 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 1.3pps and over the year by 0.3pps to 25.8 per cent. Neither the quarterly nor annual changes were statistically significant.
  • The total number of weekly hours worked in NI was estimated at 27.1million, an increase of 1.9 per cent on the previous quarter and 7.9 per cent on the equivalent period last year.


  • Labour market indicators continue to show improvements over the short-term, with increases in the employment rate and payrolled employees over the quarter, and decreases in the claimant count and the number of furloughed employees. The majority of indicators (with the exception of payrolled employees) have not returned to pre-pandemic levels.
  • The latest HMRC payroll data show that, the number of payrolled employees was above pre-COVID levels for the fourth consecutive month and increased by 4.0 per cent (29,100 employees) over the year.  Employee numbers for September are now at their highest level on record and are 1.6 per cent above those recorded in March 2020 pre-COVID.
  • Provisional HMRC data show the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme supported approximately 29,700 jobs at the end of August (equivalent to a take-up rate of 4 per cent) continuing the downward trend seen throughout 2021. The number of proposed and confirmed redundancies in August and September were relatively low in keeping with the trend of the low number of confirmed redundancies since January 2021. The large number of annual confirmed redundancies reflects the high level of redundancies at the end of 2020.
  • The Labour Force Survey shows the total number of hours worked (June-August 2021) has increased by 7.9 per cent 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 December-February 2020 however, the total number of hours worked in June-August was 5.6 per cent below and the employment rate was 1.4pps below.  The most recent economic inactivity rate and unemployment rates are above the pre-pandemic rates (0.2pps and 1.6pps above respectively).

Notes to editors: 

  1. The statistical report and associated tables are available at: Labour market overview
  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’ refer to comparisons between the latest quarterly estimates for the period June-August 2021 and the quarter preceding that (i.e. March-May 2021). ‘Over the year’ refer to comparisons between the latest quarterly estimates for the period June-August 2021 and those of the corresponding quarter one year previously (i.e. June-August 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 June-August 2021 should be compared with the estimates for March-May 2021. This provides a more robust estimate than comparing with the estimates for May-July 2021, as the June and July 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 (ie between 3.3 per cent and 4.9 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 three businesses are not disclosed. The Statistical Disclosure Control Policy is available here: 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 7 October 2021 and are available here: Coronavirus job retention scheme statistics - 7 October-2021. The next publication of these statistics is 4 November 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: Claim for wage costs 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 Tuesday 16 November 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 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:
    Mark McFetridge,
    Economic & Labour Market Statistics (ELMS), or Tel: 028 902 55172.

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