Employers curtail redundancy plans in first three months of 2021

Just 170 redundancies were proposed in the north during the first quarter of 2021, the lowest three-month total since 2007.

THE pace of large scale redundancies in Northern Ireland slowed considerably in the first three months of 2021, the latest official data has suggested.

Just over 1,000 jobs were confirmed lost during the first quarter, according to April's labour market report from the Northern Ireland Research and Statistics Agency (NISRA).

But employers appear to have curtailed their redundancy plans for 2021.

Just 170 redundancies were proposed during the first quarter, the lowest three-month total since 2007.

It compares with the 5,115 redundancies proposed over June to August 2020.

Employers are legally required to notify the Department for the Economy when cutting more than 20 staff.

Not all proposed redundancies result in job losses.

Of the 10,090 proposed over the past 12 months, 5,780 have been confirmed to date.

A separate report from yesterday also revealed a sharp upturn in jobs being advertised during the first quarter.

Job listings increased by 40 per cent between the fourth quarter of 2020 and the first quarter (Q1) of this year. Significantly, the number of job listings in Q1 were 24 per cent higher than the Q1 2020.

But NISRA's analysis has pointed to a faltering in the recent labour market recovery during the month of March.

The total number of employee jobs recorded by HMRC in Northern Ireland dipped by around 200 during the month to 744,065.

It followed several months where the labour market recovered a significant chunk of the 16,500 jobs that disappeared from payrolls during the first lockdown in May 2020.

Some 6,800 of those jobs were clawed back by February 2021 according to NISRA.

The HMRC PAYE data is considered one of the most reliable indicators for the job market.

HMRC's latest data also shows 106,500 jobs were still furloughed in Northern Ireland at the end of February.

Ulster Bank's chief economist Richard Ramsey said unemployment will surge when the furlough protection is lifted over the summer. However, he said it will not reach anywhere near the levels previously feared.

Ulster University economist Mark Magill said the labour market data has exposed a disproportionate impact on self-employed people and young people.

Official figures suggest the number of self-employed people in Northern Ireland has fallen by between 22,000 and 25,000 in the past year.

The number of 16-24 year-olds in employment has fallen by 25 per cent over the same period.

“The story for me is the unequal nature of the fall in employment,” said Mr Magill.

“Graduate employment has grown, while non-graduate fallen.

“Professional and associate professional occupations have grown, while other occupations have fallen - particularly skilled trades.”

Although up 1.2 percentage points on last year, the north's overall unemployment rate remains relatively low at 3.7 per cent.

The number of people claiming unemployment support during March was 58,100.

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