Labour Market Statistics

Date published: 15 March 2022

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

Labour market statistics
Labour market statistics

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

  • The number of employees receiving pay through HMRC PAYE in NI in February 2022 was 777,300, an increase of 0.5% over the month and 5.4% over the year.  This is the highest on record and the ninth 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 £1,904 in February 2022, a decrease of £35 (1.8%) over the month and an increase of £113 (6.3%) over the year. 

Lowest NI Claimant Count (Experimental Series) total since March 2020

  • In February 2022, the seasonally adjusted number of people on the claimant count was 39,600 (4.0% of the workforce), a decrease of 900 (2.3%) from the previous month’s revised figure.  The February claimant count is 38% below the recent peak in May 2020, and 30% higher than the pre-pandemic count in March 2020.

Low number of confirmed redundancies since the beginning of 2022

  • NISRA, acting on behalf of the Department for the Economy, received confirmation that 40 redundancies occurred in February 2022.  Over the year from 1st March 2021 to 28th February 2022, 2,070 redundancies were confirmed, 64% less than in the previous year.
  • There were 210 proposed redundancies in February 2022.  This follows no, or low, proposed redundancies in each of the months between September and January 2022.  Over the year March 2021 to February 2022, 2,040 redundancies were proposed, 81% less than in the previous 12 months

Employee jobs reach a series high in December 2021

  • The number of employee jobs in December 2021 was estimated at 782,450, reaching a series high.  This was an increase of 2,850 jobs over the quarter and 12,290 jobs over the year.  Neither the quarterly nor the annual changes in employee jobs were found to be statistically significant.  December 2021 estimates showed that employee jobs are now above the pre-pandemic December 2019 level (2,410 jobs).  
  • December 2021 employee jobs estimates reported a series high within the services sector (636,290 jobs).
  • Quarterly increases in employee jobs were seen within the services (2,250 jobs) and construction (920 jobs) sectors to December 2021.  There were decreases within the manufacturing (290 jobs) and other industries (30 jobs) sectors over the quarter.
  • Annual increases in employee jobs were seen within the services (11,790 jobs) and manufacturing (600 jobs) sectors.  The construction and other industries sectors both experienced marginal decreases of 50 jobs over the year to December 2021.
  • Private sector jobs increased both over the quarter (700 jobs) and the year (7,660 jobs) to 563,940 jobs in December 2021.  Public sector jobs also increased over both the quarter (1,440 jobs) and the year (4,650 jobs) to 217,790 jobs in December 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 November-January 2022 was estimated from the Labour Force Survey at 2.7%.  The unemployment rate decreased by 0.8 percentage points (pps) over the quarter and over the year.  The quarterly change was statistically significant and is likely to reflect real change.
  • The employment rate (proportion of people aged 16 to 64 in work) was unchanged over the quarter and increased by 0.3pps over the year to 70.4%.  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 3.2% on the previous quarter and an increase of 4.2% over the year.
  • 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 0.6pps and over the year by 0.3pps to 27.5%.  Neither the quarterly nor annual changes were statistically significant.


  • Employee indicators remain positive with payrolled employees, payroll earnings and number of employee jobs (as reported by businesses) all above the pre-pandemic level. Employment levels (which includes self-employed) and total 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 February and 3.3% above those recorded in March 2020 pre-COVID.  Businesses reported, via the Quarterly Employment Survey (QES), that employee jobs increased over both the quarter and the year, reaching a series high in December 2021 (and 2,410 jobs above pre-pandemic). The annual increase in employee jobs was largely driven by the services sector which also reached a series high in December 2021.
  • There were 210 proposed redundancies in February 2022 following no, or low, proposed redundancies in the later months of 2021 and January 2022.  This number is, however, still well below the average number of proposed redundancies in the second half of 2020 (at 1,050 per month). Similarly confirmed redundancies in January and February 2022 were much lower than the monthly average during 2021 (20 and 40 respectively compared to 240).
  • The Labour Force Survey shows a statistically significant quarterly change in the unemployment rate to November-January 2022, where the rate decreased (-0.8pps) to 2.7%.  Compared to the pre-pandemic levels in November-January 2020, the total number of hours worked in November-January 2022 was 6.7% below, whilst the employment rate was 1.8pps below.  Both the unemployment and economic inactivity rates remain above the pre-pandemic position (0.3pps and 1.6pps above, respectively).

Notes to editors: 

  1. 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 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’ refer to comparisons between the latest quarterly estimates for the period November-January 2022 and the quarter preceding that (i.e. August-October 2021).  ‘Over the year’ refer to comparisons between the latest quarterly estimates for the period November-January 2022 and those of the corresponding quarter one year previously (i.e. November-January 2021).  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 November-January 2022 should be compared with the estimates for August-October 2021.  This provides a more robust estimate than comparing with the estimates for October-December 2021, as the November and December 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 0.6pps of the quoted estimate (i.e. between 2.1% and 3.3%).
  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 December 2021. 
  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 at the redundancies background page of the NISRA website. 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 uses 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.  Early estimates (flash estimates) for February 2022 are based on around 85% of information, and will be subject to revision in the next month’s release when between 98% and 99% of data will be available (main estimates).  The size of revisions to main and flash estimates are similar for employees, while revisions to earnings flash estimates are typically larger than main estimate 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. Following the latest reweighting of LFS estimates in July 2021 which impacted datasets from January 2020, a further reweighting is planned. The estimates for NI did not have the non-response bias adjustment from the recent reweighting fully applied and in addition there was a small error in the implementation of the reweighting methodology affecting all UK estimates. NISRA will provide further detail on timelines for the reweighting in due course, where LFS quarterly and annual datasets will be reweighted back to January 2020. 
  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 12th April 2022.
  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.
  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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