NI payroll total 'could return to pre-pandemic level within weeks'

The north's latest labour market data showed positive signs across the board.

THE number of people of company payrolls in the north could return to pre-pandemic levels as soon as next month, an economist has said.

Ulster Bank’s Richard Ramsey was commenting as the latest government labour market data showed the number of people on HMRC payrolls increased by around 5,000 during May.

The number has now increased for six successive months to 745,900, the highest payroll figure since March 2020.

Around 14,000 jobs were lost from the HMRC payroll count in the first six months of the pandemic, but almost two-thirds (8,631) have now been recovered.

May’s labour market report showed most indicators moving in the direction of recovery as the economy eased out of lockdown.

The official unemployment rate fell to 3.1 per cent, while the claimant count and economic inactivity also fell.

Richard Ramsey said the reopening of the economy was always going to result in a strong rebound in hiring and jobs growth.

“Indeed the HMRC payrolls data may reveal a return to pre-pandemic employee levels as soon as next month.”

But he said the data reflects a period where government support and a variety of “economic painkillers” including furlough, remain in place.

“Surviving the pandemic is one thing," he said. "Remaining viable without government support in the post-pandemic world for many is quite another.”

May's report revealed a pick-up in proposed redundancies, with 150 proposed in May and another 360 proposed in the first two weeks of June.

Some 280 redundancies were confirmed during May, taking the annual total to 5,920, the highest 12-month figure since 2001.

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