Labour Market Statistics

Date published: 12 April 2022

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

Labour market statistics published
Labour market statistics published

Key points

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

  • The number of employees receiving pay through HMRC PAYE in NI in March 2022 was 775,000, an increase of 0.1 per cent over the month and 4.8 per cent over the year.  This is the highest on record and the tenth 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 £1,928 in March 2022, an increase of £14 (0.7 per cent) over the month and £125 (6.9 per cent) over the year. 

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

  • In March 2022, the seasonally adjusted number of people on the claimant count was 37,900 (4.0 per cent of the workforce), which is a decrease of 1,000 (2.6 per cent) from the previous month’s revised figure.  The March claimant count is 41 per cent less than the recent peak in May 2020, and 27 per cent higher than the pre-pandemic count in March 2020.

Trend of low numbers of confirmed redundancies continues

  • The number of redundancies proposed in March was low, and in line with the statistical disclosure control policy cannot be disclosed (preventing potential identification of individual businesses).
  • NISRA received confirmation that 30 redundancies occurred in March 2022.  At 1,850, the annual total was 68 per cent less than in the previous year.  Over the year April 2021 to March 2022, 2,130 redundancies were proposed, 79 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 age 16 and over who were unemployed) for the period December-February 2022 was estimated from the Labour Force Survey at 2.5 per cent.  The unemployment rate decreased by 0.6 percentage points (pps) over the quarter and by 1.0pps over the year.  Both the quarterly and annual changes were statistically significant and are likely to reflect real change.
  • The employment rate (proportion of people aged 16 to 64 in work) increased by 1.1pps over the quarter and by 1.3pps over the year to 71.2 per cent.  Neither the quarterly nor annual changes were statistically significant.
  • The total number of weekly hours worked in NI was estimated at 27.2million, a decrease of 3.8 per cent on the previous quarter and an increase of 7.0 per cent 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) decreased over the quarter by 0.7pps and over the year by 0.5pps to 27.0 per cent.  Neither the quarterly nor annual changes were statistically significant.

Commentary

  • Employee indicators remain positive with the number of payrolled employees and level of payroll earnings above the pre-pandemic level, while the latest unemployment rate marks a return to the pre-pandemic rate.  Employment levels (which includes self-employed) and total hours worked have yet to return to pre-pandemic levels and similarly claimant count and economic inactivity both remain above.
  • The latest HMRC payroll data was the highest level on record in March and 3.0 per cent above those recorded in March 2020 pre-COVID.  The 25-34 age group is the only group to yet return to pre-pandemic numbers, with 0.7 per cent less employees than in March 2020. 
  • Over the first three months of 2022, the total number of confirmed redundancies (90) was the lowest three-month total on record.  With the exception of February 2022, where there were 210 proposed redundancies (still well below the average number of proposed redundancies in the second half of 2020 of 1,050 per month), there have been low or no proposed redundancies in each of the months between September 2021 and March 2022.
  • The Labour Force Survey shows statistically significant decreases in the unemployment rate over the quarter and year to December-February 2022 to 2.5 per cent (0.6pps and 1.0pps respectively). The latest unemployment rate is the same as the rate reported in the pre-pandemic period (December-February 2020).
  • Also, when comparing to the pre-pandemic levels, the total number of hours worked in December-February 2022 was 5.2 per cent below, whilst the employment rate was 1.3pps below.  Similarly, the economic inactivity rate remains 1.3pps above the pre-pandemic position.

Notes to editors: 

The statistical report and associated tables are available on the Labour Market Overview page of the NISRA website.

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 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 December-February 2022 and the quarter preceding that (i.e. September-November 2021).  ‘Over the year’ refer to comparisons between the latest quarterly estimates for the period December-February 2022 and those of the corresponding quarter one year previously (i.e. December-February 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 December-February 2022 should be compared with the estimates for September-November 2021.  This provides a more robust estimate than comparing with the estimates for November-January 2022, as the December and January 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 1.9% and 3.1%).

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 three businesses are not disclosed.  The Statistical Disclosure Control Policy is available on the Redundancies background information 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.

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.  Early estimates (flash estimates) for March 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.  

13. 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 that include data from March 2020 will be reweighted.

14. A new format of the Labour Market Report (LMR) is currently in development using HTML, which will further improve on accessibility, and the tables attached to the LMR are also being reviewed and improved. We aim to roll these out in the coming months and will keep users informed of a timeline for releasing the new LMR and tables, including an update in the upcoming Labour Market Statistics Newsletter in May.

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 17th May 2022.

17. To keep up to date with news from the Department you can follow us on the following social media channels:

18. For media enquiries contact the Department for the Economy Press Office at: pressoffice@economy-ni.gov.uk.

18. 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.

19. Feedback is welcomed and should be addressed to: Responsible statistician: Mark McFetridge, Economic & Labour Market Statistics (ELMS),Mark.McFetridge@nisra.gov.uk or Tel: 028 902 55172.

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