Labour market statistics

Date published: 14 December 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 sixth consecutive month

  • The number of employees receiving pay through HMRC PAYE in NI in November 2021 was 771,000, an increase of 0.7 per cent over the month and 4.9 per cent over the year. This is the highest on record and the sixth 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 £1,848 in November 2021, an increase of £3 (0.2 per cent) over the month and an increase of £68 (3.8 per cent) over the year.

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

  • In November 2021, the seasonally adjusted number of people on the claimant count was 44,500 (4.5 per cent of the workforce), a decrease of 1,500 (3.4 per cent) from the previous month’s revised figure. The November claimant count is 30 per cent below the recent peak in May 2020, and 46 per cent higher than the pre-pandemic count in March 2020.

Lowest rolling 12-month total of proposed redundancies since 2014

  • Over the year from 1st December 2020 to 30th November 2021, 2,280 redundancies were proposed, 79 per cent less than in the previous 12 months.
  • NISRA, acting on behalf of the Department for the Economy, received confirmation that 130 redundancies occurred in November 2021. At 3,070, the annual total was 35 per cent less than in the previous year (4,730).

Third consecutive quarterly increase in employee jobs driven by services sector

  • The number of employee jobs in September 2021 was estimated at 779,470. This was an increase of 7,520 jobs (+1.0 per cent) over the quarter and 8,070 jobs (+1.0 per cent) over the year. Neither the quarterly nor the annual changes in employee jobs were found to be statistically significant. September 2021 estimates showed that employee jobs have almost returned to the pre-pandemic December 2019 level (-0.1 per cent or -460 jobs), and it marks the first annual increase since June 2020.
  • September 2021 marked the third consecutive quarterly increase in employee jobs, following four previous quarters of decline.
  • Quarterly increases in employee jobs were seen within the services (+6,100 jobs) and manufacturing (+1,520 jobs) sectors to September 2021. There were marginal decreases within the construction (-40 jobs) and other industries (-60 jobs) sectors over the quarter.
  • All broad industry sectors apart from construction experienced an increase in employee jobs over the year to September 2021, with the services sector reporting the biggest annual increase (+6,100 jobs). The construction sector experienced a decrease of 5.4 per cent (-1,930 jobs) over the year to September 2021.
  • Private sector jobs increased both over the quarter (+0.9 per cent or +5,260 jobs) and the year (+0.7 per cent or +3,680 jobs) to 563,120 jobs in September 2021. Public sector jobs also increased over both the quarter (+0.8 per cent or +1,630 jobs) and the year (+2.0 per cent, or +4,300 jobs) to 216,710 jobs in September 2021.

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 August-October 2021 was estimated from the Labour Force Survey at 3.6 per cent. The unemployment rate decreased by 0.4 percentage points (pps) over the quarter and by 0.2pps 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 0.8pps to 70.4 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 1.1pps and over the year by 1.0pps to 26.9 per cent. Neither the quarterly nor annual changes were statistically significant.
  • The total number of weekly hours worked in NI was estimated at 27.8million, an increase of 2.2 per cent on the previous quarter and an increase of 5.2 per cent on the equivalent period last year.


  • Payrolled employees and payroll earnings continue to be above the pre-pandemic level, whilst employee jobs almost returned to the pre-pandemic peak level in September. Employment levels (which includes self-employed) and hours worked have yet to return to pre-pandemic levels and similarly claimant count, unemployment and economic inactivity all remain above.
  • The latest HMRC payroll data was the highest level on record in November and 2.5 per cent above those recorded in March 2020 pre-COVID.  Businesses reported, via the Quarterly Employment Survey, that employee jobs increased over both the quarter and the year to 779,470 jobs in September 2021. Although this total is slightly below the pre-pandemic December 2019 series high (-0.1 per cent or -460 jobs) it marks the first annual increase since June 2020.  The annual increase was largely driven by the services sector (+1.2 per cent or +7,630 jobs).
  • The number of proposed and confirmed redundancies remained low in recent months. The annual total proposed redundancies to November (2,280) is the lowest rolling-twelve month total since January 2014, while there was a 35 per cent decrease in confirmed redundancies to November when compared to the previous year.
  • The Labour Force Survey shows the total number of hours worked (August-October 2021) has increased by 5.2 per cent over the year. Compared to the pre-pandemic levels in November-January 2020, the total number of hours worked in August-October was 3.6 per cent below, whilst the employment rate was 1.9pps below.  Both the unemployment and economic inactivity rates remain above the pre-pandemic position (1.2pps and 1.0pps 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 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 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 30th September 2021, which was also the last date for making a SEISS claim.
  4. ‘Over the quarter’ refers to comparisons between the latest quarterly estimates for the period August-October 2021 and the quarter preceding that (i.e. May-July 2021).  ‘Over the year’ refers to comparisons between the latest quarterly estimates for the period August-October 2021 and those of the corresponding quarter one year previously (i.e. August-October 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 August-October 2021 should be compared with the estimates for May-July 2021. This provides a more robust estimate than comparing with the estimates for July-September 2021, as the August and September 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 0.7pps of the quoted estimate (ie between 2.9 per cent and 4.3 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 6th September 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. 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.
  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. 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.
  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. A comparison of earnings statistics from the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) and HMRC Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Real Time Information (RTI) is available on the NISRA website at: Comparison ASHE and PAYE RTI
  14. HMRC’s statistics on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme were published on 4 November 2021 and are available here: Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme statistics 4 November 2021. The next publication of these statistics is 16 December 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.   
  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 18 January 2022.
  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 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.
  20. Follow us on Twitter @Economy_NI
  21. Feedback is welcomed and should be addressed to:

Responsible statistician:

Mark McFetridge,

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

Share this page

Back to top