Labour Market Statistics

Date published: 16 January 2024

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

Labour Market Statistics
Labour Market Statistics

Payrolled employees decreased over the month, monthly earnings increased

  • The number of employees receiving pay through HMRC PAYE in NI in December 2023 was 795,900, a 0.1% decrease over the month and a 1.5% increase over the year.
  • When considering employees by age, the 25-34 age group is the only group yet to return to pre-COVID levels, remaining 0.3% below March 2020 numbers.
  • Earnings data from the HMRC PAYE indicated that NI employees had a median monthly pay of £2,160 in December 2023, an increase of £76 (3.6%) over the month and £150 (7.5%) over the year. 
  • In incorporating the latest RTI submissions to HMRC into these statistics HMRC have observed unusual patterns in submissions from certain schemes.  This affects pay growth estimates for November and December in Northern Ireland.  Estimates for Northern Ireland may be more likely to see revisions in future releases if the tax data for these months are later amended.

Claimant Count Rate remains relatively stable since April 2022

  • In December 2023, the seasonally adjusted number of people on the claimant count was 36,300 (3.7% of the workforce), an increase of 0.3% from the previous month’s revised figure.  The December 2023 claimant count remains 21.6% higher than the pre-pandemic count in March 2020.

Proposed and Confirmed redundancies considerably higher than the previous year

Labour Force Survey employment, unemployment, and economic inactivity rates show changes in a favourable direction over the year

  • The latest NI seasonally adjusted unemployment rate (the proportion of economically active people age 16 and over who were unemployed) for the period September-November 2023 was estimated from the Labour Force Survey at 2.4%.  This was an increase of 0.1 percentage points (pps) over the quarter and a decrease of 0.4pps from the same period last year. 
  • The proportion of people aged 16 to 64 in work (the employment rate) increased by 0.4pps over the quarter and by 1.1pps over the year to 72.4%.
  • The total number of weekly hours worked in NI (29.1 million) increased by 5.0% over the quarter and by 2.1% over the year.  This is the highest total since the onset of the pandemic.
  • The economic inactivity rate (the proportion of people aged 16 to 64 who were not working and not seeking or available to work) decreased by 0.6pps over the quarter and by 0.8pps over the year to 25.8%.


  • The latest Labour Market release shows that over the year both payrolled employee numbers and earnings have increased. In addition, the Labour Force Survey employment, unemployment, and economic inactivity rates have all moved in a favourable direction when compared to one year ago.
  • The latest HMRC payroll data shows that payrolled employee numbers decreased by 0.1% over the month and increased by 1.5% over the year. Payrolled earnings increased by 3.6% over the month and were 7.5% higher than December 2022.
  • Households reported, via the Labour Force Survey (LFS), a 1.1pps increase in the employment rate over the year to September-November 2023, to 72.4%, while there were decreases over the year to September-November 2023 in both the economic inactivity rate (by 0.8pps to 25.8%) and the unemployment rate (by 0.4pps to 2.4%). None of these annual changes were statistically significant.
  • The total number of hours worked in September-November 2023 increased by 2.1% over the year, to 29.1 million hours per week. This is 1.5% above the pre-pandemic position recorded in December-February 2020 and is the highest total recorded since September-November 2019.
  • Also, the Department was notified of 60 confirmed redundancies in December 2023, which brought the rolling twelve-month total of confirmed redundancies to 2,570. This was over three and a half times the figure for the previous year (730) and is the second highest rolling twelve-month total since December 2021. Over the year January to December 2023, there were 4,190 proposed redundancies notified to the Department. This is the second highest rolling twelve-month total since September 2021. Both the rolling twelve-month totals of proposed and confirmed redundancies are similar to the levels seen in the decade preceding the pandemic.
  • Finally, there was a small increase of 0.3% in the claimant count estimate over the month to December 2023 from the revised figure for November 2023. The claimant count rate at December 2023 was 3.7% - the twenty first consecutive month that this rate has been within the range 3.6% to 3.8%.

Notes to editors: 

  1. The statistical report and associated tables are available at:

  1. The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency wishes to thank the participating households for their co-operation in agreeing to take part in the surveys and for facilitating the collection of the relevant data.
  2. ‘Over the quarter’ refer to comparisons between the latest quarterly estimates for the period September-November 2023 and the quarter preceding that (i.e. June-August 2023).  ‘Over the year’ refer to comparisons between the latest quarterly estimates for the period September-November 2023 and those of the corresponding quarter one year previously (i.e. September-November 2022).  Changes that are 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) are specifically highlighted.
  3. Estimates relating to September-November 2023 should be compared with the estimates for June-August 2023.  This provides a more robust estimate than comparing with the estimates for August-October 2023, as the September and October data are included within both estimates.
  4. 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 1.8% and 3.0%).
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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 here:  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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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 December 2023 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.  
  10. 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.
  11. The next Labour Market Report will be published on the NISRA website on Tuesday 13th February 2024.
  12. For media enquiries contact the Department for the Economy Press Office at
  13. 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.
  14. To keep up to date with news from the Department you can follow us on the following social media channels:
    1. X / Twitter – @Economy_NI
    2. Facebook – @DeptEconomyNI
    3. Instagram – economy_ni
    4. LinkedIn – Department for the Economy NI 
  15. 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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