Labour Market Statistics

Date published: 19 March 2019

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

Composite Economic Index
Composite Economic Index

Unemployment was unchanged over the quarter and increased over the year

  • The latest NI seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for the period November-January 2019 was estimated from the Labour Force Survey at 3.5 per cent. The unemployment rate was unchanged over the quarter and increased by 0.3 percentage points (pps) over the year. Neither the annual nor quarterly change were statistically significant, ie the recorded changes did not exceed the variability expected from a sample survey of this size.
  • The NI unemployment rate (3.5 per cent.) was below the UK rate (3.9 per cent.), the European Union (6.6 per cent) and the Republic of Ireland (5.3 per cent) rates for December 2018.
  • Nearly half (46.9 per cent.) of those unemployed in NI were long-term unemployed (i.e. unemployed for one year or more), compared to 26.7 per cent in the UK.

Employment rate increased and the economic inactivity rate decreased over the quarter and the year

  • The employment rate (70.9 per cent) increased over the quarter and over the year by 1.4 pps. The change in the employment rate was statistically significant over the quarter ie the recorded change exceeded the variability expected from a sample survey of this size and is likely to reflect real change.
  • The economic inactivity rate (26.4 per cent) decreased over the quarter by 1.4pps and over the year by 1.6pps. The change in the economic inactivity rate was statistically significant over the quarter ie the recorded change exceeded the variability expected from a sample survey of this size and is likely to reflect real change.

Confirmed redundancies increased over the year

  • NISRA, acting on behalf of the Department for the Economy, received confirmation that 14 redundancies took place in February 2019. Although this is the lowest monthly total since August 2006, the number of confirmed redundancies (2,354) in the most recent 12 months was 30 per cent higher than in the previous 12 months (1,815).
  • A total of 122 redundancies were proposed between mid-February and mid-March 2019, an increase on the previous monthly total of 42. The number of proposed redundancies in the last 12 months (2,662) was 19 per cent lower than in the previous 12 months (3,268).

Private sector jobs increased over the quarter and year to their highest level on record

  • Estimates from the Quarterly Employment Survey December 2018 indicate that private sector jobs increased over the quarter and year to the highest level on record (565,480). Public sector jobs also increased over the quarter and the year. The number of public sector jobs is estimated at 207,950 and is 9 per cent below its highest level in September 2009.
  • The total number of employee jobs increased over the quarter (5,410 jobs) and over the year (14,350 jobs) to 773,750; the highest number of jobs on record. The annual change in employee jobs is statistically significant i.e. the recorded change exceeded the variability expected from a survey of this size and was likely to reflect real change.
  • Increases were experienced in all broad industry sectors over the year. The services sector which accounts for more than four-fifths of jobs in NI, accounted for the majority (72 per cent) of the annual growth. Within the services sector the largest increases over the year were within human health activities; food and beverage service activities; and social work activities without accommodation. 
  • Over the quarter, Retail trade except of motor vehicles and motorcycles, experienced the largest increase in employee jobs of all industry sections (at 2-digit SIC level). At 5.5 per cent (approximately 5,000 jobs), the quarterly growth in this industry was similar to that in December 2016 (5.9 per cent), but lower than in December 2017 (8.8 per cent).

Commentary

  • The latest estimates from businesses and households show continued growth in the NI labour market.
  • Businesses reported via the Quarterly Employment Survey that employee jobs increased over the quarter and year to a record high of 773,750 jobs. This continues a period of quarter on quarter growth from December 2015. Although increases were seen in all broad industry sectors over the quarter and the year, the services sector continues to account for the majority of growth.
  • The Labour Force Survey also shows increases in employment and a relatively strong labour market. The unemployment rate at 3.5 per cent remains below the UK rate, continuing the trend of low unemployment evident since late 2017. The employment rate (70.9 per cent) increased over the quarter and the year to the highest on record, while the inactivity rate decreased over the quarter and year. At 26.4 per cent the inactivity rate is now similar to the relatively low levels seen in 2016.
  • The continued improvements in the NI labour market are consistent with the UK experience, where unemployment and inactivity are lowest on record and employment is at a record high. However, it is worth noting, when compared to the other UK regions, NI has the fifth lowest unemployment rate, the lowest employment rate and highest inactivity rate.

Notes to editors: 

  1. The statistical bulletin and associated tables are available at the Labour Force Survey page.
  1. The Labour Market Report is a monthly overview of key labour market statistics. This month’s report includes figures from the Labour Force Survey and official redundancy data. 
  1. The experimental Claimant Count data are no longer included in the Labour Market Report.  The data tables will continue to be published on the NISRA website and counts will also be available from NOMIS.
  1. 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 number of unemployed persons is likely to fall within 0.8 per cent of the quoted estimate (ie between 2.9 per cent and 4.6 per cent).
  1. 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 (a) redundancies proposed and (b) redundancies confirmed.
  1. 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.
  1. The next Labour Market Report will be published on the NISRA website on 16 April 2019.
  1. 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 at 2 digit SIC level are not adjusted for seasonality.
  1. For media enquiries, please contact DfE Press Office on 028 9052 9604. Outside office hours, please contact the Duty Press Officer on 028 9037 8110.
  1. Feedback is welcomed and should be addressed to: Responsible statistician: Carly Gordon, Economic and Labour Market Statistics Branch (ELMS), carly.gordon@nisra.gov.uk or Tel: 028 9025 5172.
  1. Follow ELMS on Twitter - @ELMSNISRA

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