Labour Market Statistics Published

Date published: 17 May 2017

The Labour Market Statistics were published today by the Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency.

Labour Market Statistics Published

Key Points:

Labour Force Survey (LFS) employment rate decreased while economic inactivity rate increased over the quarter:

  • The latest NI seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for the period January - March 2017 was 5.3%, this is unchanged from the previous quarter but down 0.8 pps over the year (from 6.1%).
  • There was a decrease (1.5 pps) in the employment rate (68.4%) over the quarter and (0.8 pps) over the year. This represents the largest quarterly decrease in NI employment rate since January – March 2009 falling from 69.9% in October – December 2016. However, it should be noted that the latter was the highest employment rate recorded on the quarterly series.
  • The economic inactivity rate (27.7%) increased by 1.6 percentage points over the quarter and 1.5 pps over the year. This represents the largest quarterly increase in NI economically inactive rate since the quarterly series began in 1995, increasing from the relatively low rate of 26.1% in October – December 2016.
  • The latest NI unemployment rate (5.3%) was above the UK average of 4.6% however, it was below the European Union (8.0%) rate and Republic of Ireland (6.6%) rate for February 2017.

NI claimant count continues to fall:

  • The more recent seasonally adjusted number of people claiming unemployment related benefits stood at 31,500 (3.5% of the workforce) in April 2017, representing a decrease of 200 from the previous month’s revised figure. The number of people leaving the register in the previous 36 month period has slowed from 11,700 in the 12 months to April 2015, to 6,300 in the most recent year to April 2017.

Confirmed redundancies increase:

  • There were 131 confirmed redundancies in April 2017. Over the last year to 30 April 2017 here has been a 16% increase in the number of confirmed redundancies: 3,031 compared to 2,603 in the previous year.


  • At 5.3%, the unemployment rate for the most recent quarter is the lowest rate since October - December 2008 and continues the gradual decline in the unemployment rate over recent years (from 7.3% in 2013/14 to 5.6% in 2016/17). The decrease in the number of unemployed over the year includes falls in the number of youth and long-term unemployed.
  • Although the unemployment rate was unchanged over the quarter and decreased over the year, the employment rate fell and the inactivity rate increased over both time periods. The quarterly changes in the employment and economic inactivity rates were both statistically significant meaning they are likely to reflect real changes. Both the employment and inactivity rates have returned to levels last reported in 2015.
  • The change in the employment rate represents the largest quarterly decrease in the NI employment rate since January – March 2009. However, it should be noted that this represents a fall from the highest employment rate recorded in the quarterly series (69.9% in October – December 2016). The decrease in employment was not experienced across the board with falls in full-time and part-time employees outweighing the increase in the numbers of self employed over the quarter and year.
  • In addition, the change in the economic inactivity rate is the largest quarterly increase in the economic inactivity rate since the quarterly series began. This represented an increase from a relatively low rate in historical terms of 26.1% reported in October – December 2016.
  • While the quarterly decrease in employment and increase in inactivity rates are marked in nature, it remains to be seen whether this represents the start of an emerging trend or is a one off event in the quarterly series.
  • The NI claimant count reflects the continuation of a period of falling unemployment. The series has fallen by 33,200 since its most recent peak in February 2013 and is now less than half of that total. The most recent level (31,500) remained above the low-point in September 2007 (23,500) and showed a decrease of 200 over the month to April 2017.


Notes to editors: 

1. The Labour Market Report is a monthly overview of key labour market statistics. It includes figures from the Labour Force Survey, the claimant count (people claiming unemployment related benefits), the Quarterly Employment Survey of employers and the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings as well as official redundancy data.

2. The NI claimant count measure of unemployment is based on people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) from Jobs and Benefits Office Administrative Systems. From 17 June 2015, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) replaced the claimant count based on JSA for Great Britain (GB) with an experimental claimant count based on JSA claimants and a measure of out-of-work claimants of Universal Credit (UC). For more information please refer to the Further Information section of the Labour Market Report (Page 28).

3. The official measure of unemployment is 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 1.1% of the quoted estimate (i.e. between 4.1% and 6.4%).

4. This report will be of interest to Ministers, policy makers, public bodies, the business community, banks, economic commentators, academics and the general public with an interest in the local economy.

5. The detailed statistical bulletin is available at the NISRA website. Further information and tables from each of the data sources are available on the NISRA Website.  

6. For media enquiries, please contact DfE Press Office on 028 9052 9604. Outside office hours, please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07623 974383 and your call will be returned.

7. Feedback is welcomed and should be addressed to: Responsible statistician:Andrew Mawhinney, Economic & Labour Market Statistics Branch (ELMS), or Tel: 028 9052 9668.

8. Follow ELMS on Twitter - @ELMSNISRA

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