Northern Ireland Labour Market Statistics

Date published: 16 May 2023

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

Key points

Payrolled employees and monthly earnings recorded a decrease over the month, although both recorded an increase over the year

Highest claimant count rate for over a year

  • In April 2023, the seasonally adjusted number of people on the claimant count was 37,500 (3.9 per cent of the workforce), an increase of 3.8 per cent from the previous month’s revised figure. The April claimant count remains higher than the pre-pandemic count in March 2020 by 25.6 per cent.

Number of confirmed redundancies remains below historic trend

Labour Force Survey employment, unemployment, and economic inactivity rates remain relatively steady

  • The latest NI seasonally adjusted unemployment rate (the proportion of economically active people aged 16 and over who were unemployed) for the period January-March 2023 was estimated from the Labour Force Survey at 2.5 per cent. This was unchanged over the quarter and a decrease of 0.1pps over the year.
  • The proportion of people aged 16 to 64 in work (the employment rate) increased by 0.1pps over the quarter and increased by 1.4pps over the year to 72.0 per cent. 
  • The total number of weekly hours worked in NI (28.9 million) increased by 3.7 per cent over the quarter and increased by 3.0 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 by 0.1pps over the quarter and by 1.4pps over the year to 26.1 per cent. 


  • The latest labour market release generally shows improvements over the year, with payrolled employee numbers and earnings having both increased. The unemployment rate for January-March 2023 is 0.1pps above the pre-pandemic position, while measures of total employment (e.g. employment rate and hours worked) and economic inactivity continue to move towards parity with pre-pandemic rates. However, there has been little change over the quarter in most measures.
  • The latest HMRC payroll data shows that payrolled employee numbers decreased by 0.6 per cent over the month but increased by 1.5 per cent over the year. Payrolled earnings also decreased over the month by 2.6 per cent but were 6.6 per cent higher than April 2022.
  • Households reported, via the Labour Force Survey (LFS), a 1.4pps increase in the employment rate over the year to January-March 2023, to 72.0 per cent, and a slight decrease of 0.1pps in the unemployment rate over the year, to 2.5 per cent. The economic inactivity rate also decreased over the year to January-March 2023, by 1.4pps, to 26.1 per cent. Caution is advised when interpreting these results however as none of the annual changes were statistically significant. At January-March 2023, the employment rate sat 0.4pps below the pre-pandemic position recorded in October-December 2019, while the unemployment rate and economic inactivity rates both remain above the pre-pandemic position, by 0.1pps and 0.3pps respectively.
  • The total number of hours worked in January-March 2023 increased by 3.0 per cent over the year and now stand at 0.9 per cent below the pre-pandemic position recorded in October-December 2019.
  • Over the month to April 2023, the claimant count estimate increased, by 3.8 per cent, from the revised figure for March 2023 with the claimant count rate increasing to 3.9 per cent. This is the second month in a row both the claimant count estimate and the claimant count rate have increased. 
  • Finally, there were 70 redundancies confirmed to the Department in April 2023 which took the rolling twelve-month total to 1,060, remaining at over 1,000 for the second month in a row. There have been 2,090 proposed redundancies notified to the Department over the year May 2022 to April 2023 and, although higher than the majority of rolling twelve-month totals over the last year, this figure remains below the long term trend.

Notes to editors: 

  1. The statistical report and associated tables are available at: Labour Market report May 2023 (NISRA)
  2. The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency wishes to thank the participating households for taking part in the Labour Force Survey.
  3. ‘Over the quarter’ refer to comparisons between the latest quarterly estimates for the period January-March 2023 and the quarter preceding that (i.e. October-December 2022).  ‘Over the year’ refer to comparisons between the latest quarterly estimates for the period January-March 2023 and those of the corresponding quarter one year previously (i.e. January-March 2022).  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.
  4. Estimates relating to January-March 2023 should be compared with the estimates for October-December 2022.  This provides a more robust estimate than comparing with the estimates for December-February 2023, as the January and February data are included within both estimates.
  5. 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%).
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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: Redundancies background information (NISRA). 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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 April 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.  
  11. The content and format of the Labour Market Report (LMR) and monthly tables changed in September 2022 to make them more user friendly and interactive, enhancing accessibility, and increasing automation in their production. As the tables have changed, a mapping document has been created showing the relationship between old and new tables. In addition, the LMR, supplementary documents and data tables are now all available on one webpage with links added to individual data source pages directing users to the most recent data.
  12. 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.
  13. The next Labour Market Report will be published on the NISRA website on Tuesday 13 June 2023.
  14. For media enquiries contact the Department for the Economy Press Office at:
  15. 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.
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Responsible statistician:

Mark McFetridge,

Economic & Labour Market Statistics (ELMS), or Tel: 028 902 55172.

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