Labour market: Larger NI employers have proposed 9,500 redundancies since March, but true job loss figure likely above 30,000

Larger employers confirmed 1,240 redundancies during October, the second highest monthly figure on record.
Ryan McAleer

LARGER employers in the north have proposed almost 9,500 redundancies since the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic in March, new official figures show.

But the true number of jobs lost in Northern Ireland as a result of the economic impact of coronavirus is likely greater than 30,000, the latest labour market report suggests.

The Northern Ireland Research and Statistics Agency (NISRA) estimates the number of self-employed people here has fallen by 18,000 since last year, while HMRC data has shown the number of payrolled employees has fallen by 12,000 since March 2020.

The north’s official unemployment rate crept up to 3.6 per cent over the July to September quarter, with youth unemployment now around 11.5 per cent.

The data published yesterday revealed 9,470 job cuts were proposed by employers between March and the first week of November.

Employers are only legally required to notify the Department for the Economy when they cut more than 20 jobs.

NISRA said the number of redundancies confirmed by employers shot up in October, as the axe finally fell on cuts announced early in the pandemic.

Some 1,240 redundancies were confirmed in October, the second highest monthly figure on record. It brought the total since March to 3,730. Again, it only includes cases were more than 20 staff were laid off.

HMRC’s data has revealed that the number of payrolled jobs in the north during October (741,700) is 12,000 below the figure for March 2020 (753,700).

HMRC still counts furloughed staff as being on the payroll.

That figure does not include self-employed people.

NISRA estimates that 120,000 people in Northern Ireland were self-employed over the July-September period, 18,000 below the estimate for the same quarter in 2019.

It estimates that there are 17,000 fewer self-employed males in the north since last year, with the number of self-employed women down by 1,000.

The combined estimate of 30,000 job losses tallies with the north's claimant figure of 60,200, more than double the number of claimants from March.

The claimant count includes people on Jobseeker’s Allowance and Universal Credit, claiming mainly for the reason of being unemployed.

Ulster Bank’s chief economist Richard Ramsey said the difficulty in assessing the true impact of Covid-19 is becuase the north’s labour market remains heavily medicated by a package of support measures.

“The Job Retention Scheme, or so-called furlough scheme, has acted as an anaesthetic on the labour market," he said.

"It was due to wear off at the end of October but instead has been extended to the end of March 2021.

“Once again, as with previous extensions, the anticipated surge in unemployment has been reduced and deferred until Spring 2021 and beyond. That is not to say we won’t see a continued rise in job losses before next Spring, it will just not be as marked or as rapid as it otherwise would have been," said the economist.

“The labour market will eventually have to catch up with Northern Ireland’s deepest recession in a century.”

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