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Labor Market Statistics | Department of Economics

Labour Market Statistics | Department for the Economy

Date published:

April 18, 2023

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

Labor market statistics

Most important points

Payroll administration and monthly income showed an increase over the course of the month

Claimant Count rate remains relatively stable over the past twelve months

In March 2023, the seasonally adjusted number of people on plaintiffs’ census was 36,200 (3.7 percent of the workforce), a 2.3 percent increase from the previous month’s revised figure. The number of claimants in March remains higher than the pre-pandemic number in March 2020 at 21.2 percent.

The number of confirmed layoffs remains below the historical trend

Statistically significant annual changes in the Labor Force Survey (LFS) on employment and economic inactivity

The most recent NI seasonally adjusted unemployment rate (the share of economically active people aged 16 and over who were unemployed) for December-February 2023 was estimated at 2.4 percent based on the Labor Force Survey. This was down 0.3 percentage point (pps) over the quarter and down 0.6 percentage point over the year. The share of people aged 16 to 64 in work (the employment rate) increased by 0.6 percentage points in the quarter and increased by 2.6 percentage points over the year to 71.9 percent. The annual change was statistically significant. Total hours worked per week in NI (27.8 million) fell 2.6 percent over the quarter and rose 5.6 percent over the year. The economic inactivity rate (the percentage of people aged 16 to 64 who are not working and not looking for or available for work) fell by 0.4 percentage points over the quarter and by 2.2 percentage points over the year year to 26.2 percent. The annual change was statistically significant.


The most recent labor market release shows improvements overall, with both salaried workers and earnings rising over the year, while the unemployment rate is 0.1 percent below pre-pandemic levels. However, measures of total employment (e.g. labor force participation and hours worked) and economic inactivity have yet to return to their pre-pandemic position. The most recent HMRC wage data shows that the number of salaried workers increased by 0.5 per cent over the month and 2.3 per cent over the year. Wage earnings also rose during the month, up 2.7 percent and 9.2 percent over the year. Further improvements were observed in households reporting through the Labor Force Survey (LFS) a statistically significant increase in the employment rate over the year to December-February 2023 to 71.9 percent and a statistically significant decrease in the economic inactivity rate over the year to December-February 2023 to 26.2 percent. The unemployment rate also fell over the year to December-February 2023 and now stands at 2.4 percent. While the unemployment rate is now 0.1 percent below the December-February 2020 pre-pandemic rate, both the employment rate and the economic inactivity rate have yet to return to their pre-pandemic positions, with the employment rate 0.5 percentage points below the pre-pandemic rate. pandemic level registered in December-February 2020, while the economic inactivity rate is 0.6 percentage point higher than before the pandemic. Total hours worked in December-February 2023 increased 5.6 percent over the year, but was 3.2 percent below the pre-pandemic position recorded in December-February 2020. In contrast to these improvements, the estimated number of claimants rose 2.3 percent in the month to March 2023 from the revised estimate for February 2023. The number of claimants also increased slightly during the month, to 3.7 percent, which was the first increase since September 2022. Finally, 150 layoffs had been confirmed to the department by March 2023, bringing the 12-month rolling total to 1,070. This was the first month since September 2022 that the rolling 12-month confirmed layoff total exceeded 1,000, but this total remains below the long-term trend. As of March 2023, 100 proposed layoffs had been notified to the department, bringing the total of proposed layoffs over a 12-month period to 2,190. This was an increase from recent 12-month rolling totals, and the highest reported total since April 2022, but is still well below the long-term trend.

Notes to editors:

The statistical report and accompanying tables are available at: The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency would like to thank participating households for participating in the Labor Force Survey. ‘Through the quarter’ refers to comparisons between the latest quarterly estimates for the December-February 2023 period and the preceding quarter (ie September-November 2022). ‘Through the year’ refers to comparisons between the latest quarterly estimates for the December-February 2023 period and that of the corresponding quarter a year earlier (ie December-February 2022). Changes that prove significant in a statistical sense (ie where the estimated change was greater than the variability expected from a sample of this size and likely reflected true change) will be specifically highlighted. Estimates related to December-February 2023 should be compared to the September-November 2022 estimates. This provides a more robust estimate than comparison to the November-January 2023 estimates, as December and January data are included in both estimates. The official measure of unemployment comes from the Labor Force Survey. This measure of unemployment refers to people without a job who were available for work and who have been looking for or waiting to get a job in the past four weeks. This is the definition of the International Labor Organization. Labor Force Survey estimates are subject to sampling error. This means that the exact figure is likely to be in a range around the quoted estimate. For example, the unemployment rate is likely to fall within 0.6 percentage points of the quoted estimate (ie, between 1.8% and 3.0%). The number of applicants is an administrative data source derived from the systems of employment offices and benefits agencies, which records the number of people claiming unemployment benefits. In March 2018, the metric for counting NI claimants changed from a measure based solely on the Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA) to an experimental measure based on JSA claimants and unemployed Universal Credit (UC) claimants who are primarily a applied because they were unemployed. . Those claiming unemployment benefits (UC or JSA) may be fully unemployed and looking for work, or may have a job with low income and/or few hours, making them eligible for unemployment-related benefits. A greater number of claimants were eligible for unemployment benefits under UC than under the previous benefits regime. Redundancies are carried out by companies under the Employment Rights (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 (amended 8 October 2006), under which they are required by law to notify the Department of threatened redundancies of 20 or more employees. Companies proposing fewer than 20 layoffs are not required to notify the ministry, therefore the figures provided are likely to underestimate the overall job losses, but it is not possible to quantify the size of the shortfall. All other things being equal, we would expect more layoffs in industries dominated by large companies, as these are the companies that meet the 20 or more collective layoff criteria. To avoid identification of individual companies, the redundancy totals of less than 3 companies are not disclosed. The Statistical Disclosure Control Policy is available here: Background Information on Layoffs. Where the number of companies does not meet the disclosure threshold (as outlined in the Statistical Disclosure Control Policy), individual monthly totals will not be published. HMRC’s Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Real Time Information (RTI) system is an administrative data source. The PAYE RTI system is the system used by employers to withhold income tax and national insurance contributions before paying wages to employees. This data refers only to workers paid by employers and does not include self-employment income. Estimates of the number of paid employees and employee earnings of PAYE are classified as experimental statistics because they are still in the development phase. As a result, the data is subject to revisions. Early estimates (flash estimates) for December 2022 are based on approximately 85% of the information and will be revised in next month’s release when between 98% and 99% of the data will be available (key estimates). The magnitude of revisions to master and preliminary estimates is similar for employees, while revisions to preliminary estimates of earnings are typically larger than revisions to master estimates. The HMRC PAYE covers the entire population rather than a sample of employees or companies. Data is based on where employees live and not the location of their workplace in the UK. The data are seasonally adjusted, but not adjusted for inflation. The content and format of the Labor Market Report (LMR) and monthly tables have been changed in September 2022 to make them more user-friendly and interactive, to increase accessibility and to increase the automation of their production. Because the tables have changed, a mapping document has been created that shows the relationship between old and new tables. In addition, the LMR, supplemental documents and data tables are now all available on a single web page with links added to individual data source pages directing users to the most recent data. The Labor Market Report will be of interest to policy makers, government agencies, business, banks, economic commentators, academics and the general public with an interest in the local economy. The next Labor Market Report will be published on Tuesday, May 16, 2023 on the NISRA website. For media inquiries, please contact the Press Office of the Department for the Economy at: pressoffice@economy-ni.gov.uk. The Executive Information Service is available after business hours for media inquiries between 6:00 PM and 8:00 AM Monday through Friday, and on weekends and public holidays. The press officer on duty can be reached on 028 9037 8110. Follow us on Twitter. Feedback is welcome and can be directed to:

Responsible statistician:

Mark McFetridge
Economic and Labor Market Statistics (ELMS)
Mark.McFetridge@nisra.gov.uk or Tel: 028 902 55172.

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