Business

Fresh data points to deterioration in jobs market

The number of people in jobs in Northern Ireland fell for the first time in more than a year in September
The number of people in jobs in Northern Ireland fell for the first time in more than a year in September The number of people in jobs in Northern Ireland fell for the first time in more than a year in September

NEW economic data has revealed disturbing first signs that the deterioration in business conditions and the cost-of-living crisis have started to filter through to the labour market in Northern Ireland.

Figures from HMRC show that the number of people in jobs in the north in September actually fell for the first time in more than a year.

The payroll of 780,800 is 0.1 per cent lower than August, though still 2.6 per cent higher than the same month last year.

September also saw the first monthly decrease in payrolled earnings and the largest decrease in monthly earnings since August 2021.

Earnings from the HMRC PAYE show that Northern Ireland employees had a median monthly pay of £1,944, which amounts to a decrease of £31 over the month.

And while that is an increase of £102, or 5.5 per cent, over the year, it comes at a time when the UK inflation rate is currently running at 9.9 per cent.

Meanwhile the Labour Force Survey (LFS) shows a significant decrease in the unemployment rate over the year to June-August to 3 per cent.

The figures also show that the number of weekly hours worked in June-August have not returned to pre-pandemic levels, with the figures sitting at 2 million hours, or 7.0 per cent, below the pre-pandemic (December-February 2020) figures.

The economic inactivity rate remains 2.2 per cent above the pre-pandemic position and the unemployment rate is 0.5 per cent above that period.

Also, the north's claimant count rose in September for the first time in 19 months (since February 2021).

The data also showed that 190 redundancies were proposed in September, which came after no or low redundancies over the summer months. Over the whole of the last year, 1,410 redundancies have been proposed.

"Given the increasingly challenging outlook, further weakness in the labour market is expected in the months ahead," Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey warned.

Marie Claire Logue, associate in the employment team in the Belfast office of DWF, said: "Coming into the winter months, workforce retention could continue to be a

problem for employers.

"The ONS figures show a fall of 1.6 per cent in monthly pay over the month of September, and as the cost-of-living crisis continues, employers will need to consider supportive strategies to help assist their workforce during this difficult period – which could include offering increased flexibility, one off bonuses (where financially possible) or assistance towards childcare - to help with the rising costs."