Labour market statistics

Date published: 16 November 2021

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

Key points

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

  • The number of employees receiving pay through HMRC PAYE in NI in October 2021 was 768,200, an increase of 0.5 per cent over the month and 4.4 per cent over the year.  This is the highest on record and the fifth 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 £1,849 in October 2021, an increase of £4 (0.2 per cent) over the month and an increase of £75 (4.2 per cent) over the year.

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

  • In October 2021, the seasonally adjusted number of people on the claimant count was 47,000 (4.8 per cent of the workforce), which is a decrease of 300 (0.6 per cent) from the previous month’s revised figure.  The October claimant count is 26 per cent below the recent peak in May 2020, and 54 per cent higher than the pre-pandemic count in March 2020.

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

  • During the three month period August to October there were 240 proposed redundancies. Over the year from 1st November 2020 to 31st October 2021, 3,650 redundancies were proposed, 62 per cent fewer than in the previous 12 months.
  • NISRA, acting on behalf of the Department for the Economy, received confirmation that 200 redundancies occurred in October 2021. At 3,350, the annual total was 24 per cent less than in the previous year (4,400).

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 July-September 2021 was estimated from the Labour Force Survey at 4.0 per cent.  The unemployment rate increased by 0.2 percentage points (pps) over the quarter and increased by 0.6pps 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) decreased over the quarter and over the year by 0.9pps to 70.2 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) increased over the quarter by 0.8pps and over the year by 0.5pps to 26.8 per cent.  Neither the quarterly nor annual changes were statistically significant.
  • The total number of weekly hours worked in NI was estimated at 26.9million, a decrease of 2.4 per cent on the previous quarter and an increase of 3.7 per cent on the equivalent period last year.


  • The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme closed on 30th September 2021 (when 26,300 jobs were supported in NI).  October’s Claimant count decreased from September’s total and the number of proposed collective redundancies remained low through September, October and the first half of November.
  • The latest HMRC payroll data shows that the number of employees has increased for eleven consecutive months to the highest level on record in October.  The number of payrolled employees in October was 2.1 per cent above those recorded in March 2020 pre-COVID.
  • Labour Force Survey data for the earlier period July-September 2021 shows the total number of hours worked was 7.8 per cent below and the employment rate (includes employees and self-employed) was 2.2pps below pre-pandemic levels (October-December 2019).  The most recent economic inactivity rate and unemployment rates are above the pre-pandemic rates (1.0pps and 1.7pps 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 who were 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.  The CJRS ended on 30 September 2021, which was also the last date for making a SEISS claim.
  4. ‘Over the quarter’ refer to comparisons between the latest quarterly estimates for the period July-September 2021 and the quarter preceding that (i.e. April-June 2021). ‘Over the year’ refer to comparisons between the latest quarterly estimates for the period July-September 2021 and those of the corresponding quarter one year previously (i.e. July-September 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 July-September 2021 should be compared with the estimates for April-June 2021. This provides a more robust estimate than comparing with the estimates for June-August 2021, as the July and August 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 per cent and 4.8 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. All other things being equal we would expect more redundancies in sectors dominated by large businesses as they are the businesses that meet the 20 or more collective redundancy criteria.
  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: Redundancies background information.  Where the number of businesses does not meet the threshold for release (as detailed in the Statistical Disclosure Control Policy), individual monthly totals are not published.
  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 4 November 2021 and are available at: Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme statistics - 4 November 2021. The next publication of these statistics is 16 December 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 at: 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 14 December 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.
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Responsible statistician:

Mark McFetridge,

Economic & Labour Market Statistics (ELMS), or Tel: 028 902 55172.

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