Labour Market Statistics

Date published: 18 April 2023

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

Labour market statistics
Labour market statistics

Key points

Payrolled employees and monthly earnings recorded an increase over the month

Claimant Count rate remains relatively stable over the previous twelve months

  • In March 2023, the seasonally adjusted number of people on the claimant count was 36,200 (3.7 per cent of the workforce), an increase of 2.3 per cent from the previous month’s revised figure.  The March claimant count remains higher than the pre-pandemic count in March 2020 by 21.2 per cent.

Number of confirmed redundancies remains below historic trend

Statistically significant annual changes in Labour Force Survey (LFS) employment and economic inactivity rates

  • The latest NI seasonally adjusted unemployment rate (the proportion of economically active people aged 16 and over who were unemployed) for the period December-February 2023 was estimated from the Labour Force Survey at 2.4 per cent. This was a decrease of 0.3 percentage points (pps) over the quarter and a decrease of 0.6pps over the year.
  • The proportion of people aged 16 to 64 in work (the employment rate) increased by 0.6pps over the quarter and increased by 2.6pps over the year to 71.9 per cent. The annual change was statistically significant. 
  • The total number of weekly hours worked in NI (27.8 million) decreased by 2.6 per cent over the quarter and increased by 5.6 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 0.4pps over the quarter and by 2.2pps over the year to 26.2 per cent. The annual change was statistically significant.


  • The latest labour market release generally shows improvements, with payrolled employee numbers and earnings having both increased over the year, whilst the unemployment rate is 0.1 per cent below the pre-pandemic position. Measures of total employment (e.g. employment rate and hours worked) and economic inactivity, however, have yet to return to their pre-pandemic position.
  • The latest HMRC payroll data shows that payrolled employee numbers increased by 0.5 per cent over the month and 2.3 per cent over the year. Payrolled earnings also increased over the month, by 2.7 per cent, and 9.2 per cent over the year.
  • Further improvements were seen with households reporting, via the Labour Force Survey (LFS), a statistically significant increase in the employment rate over the year to December-February 2023 to 71.9 per cent and a statistically significant decrease in the economic inactivity rate over the year to December-February 2023 to 26.2 per cent. The unemployment rate also decreased over the year to December-February 2023 and is now 2.4 per cent.  Whilst the unemployment rate is now 0.1 per cent below the pre-pandemic rate for December-February 2020, both the employment rate and economic inactivity rate have yet to return to their pre-pandemic positions, with the employment rate 0.5pps below the pre-pandemic level recorded in December-February 2020, whilst the economic inactivity rate is 0.6pps above the pre-pandemic rate.
  • The total number of hours worked in December-February 2023 increased by 5.6 per cent over the year, however, it was 3.2 per cent below the pre-pandemic position recorded in December-February 2020.
  • In contrast to these improvements, the claimant count estimate increased by 2.3 per cent over the month to March 2023 from the revised estimate for February 2023. The claimant count rate also increased slightly over the month, to 3.7 per cent, which was the first increase since September 2022.
  • Finally, there were 150 redundancies confirmed to the Department in March 2023, taking the rolling twelve-month total to 1,070. This was the first month since September 2022 that the rolling twelve-month confirmed redundancy total was over 1,000, however this total remains below the long term trend. There were 100 proposed redundancies notified to the Department in March 2023, bringing the rolling twelve-month proposed redundancies total to 2,190. This was an increase when compared to recent rolling twelve-month totals, and the highest total reported since April 2022, but is still well below the long-term trend.

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 taking part in the Labour Force Survey.
  2. ‘Over the quarter’ refer to comparisons between the latest quarterly estimates for the period December-February 2023 and the quarter preceding that (i.e. September-November 2022). ‘Over the year’ refer to comparisons between the latest quarterly estimates for the period December-February 2023 and those of the corresponding quarter one year previously (ie December-February 2022). Changes that are found to be significant in a statistical sense (ie 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.
  3. Estimates relating to December-February 2023 should be compared with the estimates for September-November 2022. This provides a more robust estimate than comparing with the estimates for November-January 2023, as the December and January 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 (ie 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 3 businesses are not disclosed. The Statistical Disclosure Control Policy is available here: Redundancies background information. 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 2022 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 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.
  11. 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.
  12. The next Labour Market Report will be published on the NISRA website on Tuesday 16 May 2023.
  13. For media enquiries contact the Department for the Economy Press Office at:
  14. 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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