North’s jobless rate down again and is now half that of Britain

Payrolled employee numbers unchanged at 801,800 in May - but wages still below UK average

The number of payrolled employees in Northern Ireland in December was 783,800, which is up 2 per cent over the year. But wages still aren't keeping up with inflation
The number of payrolled employees in Northern Ireland in May was 801,800, which is up 1.8% over the year and is the biggest increase in any UK region

Northern Ireland’s unemployment rate has dropped again, and currently sits at half the overall UK rate, official figures show.

Latest labour market statistics from the NI Statistics & Research Agency (Nisra) show that the region’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate (that’s the proportion of economically active people over 16 who were unemployed) stood at 2.2% for the period February-April - down 0.1% over the quarter and the same percentage over the year.

It’s the lowest of any of the 12 UK regions, where the overall unemployment rate unexpectedly rose to 4.4%, its highest since the summer of 2021, as the jobs market there weakens further.

Meanwhile in Northern Ireland the number of employees being taxed in May was 801,800, which is unchanged over the month but up 1.6% over the year - the biggest increase in any UK region.

The proportion of people aged 16 to 64 in work was unchanged over the quarter and increased by 0.2% over the year to 71.3%.

Employees here had a median monthly pay of £2,217 in May, an increase of £24 (or 1.1%) over the month and £141 (6.8%) over the year.

But this remains lower than the typical UK monthly pay of £2,379.

The total number of weekly hours worked in Northern Ireland was estimated at 28.2 million hours, an increase of 2.7% on the previous quarter and a decrease of 1.1% on the equivalent period last year.

And the closely-watched economic inactivity rate (the cohort of people not working and not seeking or available to work) was unchanged over the quarter but has dropped marginally over the year to 27%.

The May claimant count in the north stood at 37,400, which is still higher than the pre-pandemic count in March 2020.

The latest Nisra report, using data from the Department for the Economy, shows that proposed and confirmed redundancies in the north were considerably higher than the previous year.

It showed that 180 actual redundancies occurred in May, bringing the annual total to 2,470, with is more than twice the figure for the previous year (1,200).

There were 650 proposed redundancies in May, taking the annual total to 4,040, which was one and a half times the figure for the previous year (2,650). But not all these numbers manifest in actual job losses.

Labour market statistics
Rachel Richardson, employment director at DWF in Belfast (Michael Cooper +44 7968 167657/Michael Cooper)

Rachel Richardson, employment director at DWF in Belfast, said the latest labour market figures demonstrate continued resilience against a difficult economic climate, showing that over the year both payrolled employee numbers and earnings have increased, while employee jobs have increased to a new series high.

She added: “Further, key indicators of employment measures have improved over the year, with the unemployment and economic inactivity rates both decreasing and the employment rate increasing.

“We now have a date for the general election, and opinion polls are suggesting a change in government is likely.

“Labour has pledged to introduce a raft of new and enhanced employment law protection for employees – including unfair dismissal as a day one right. We would of course have to wait and see what reforms the Northern Ireland Assembly decide should be implemented – if any. In the meantime, employers may exercise a degree of caution when recruiting.”

Mark McAllister

Mark McAllister, director of employment relations services at the Labour Relations Agency, said: “These figures show average pay up 6.8% year-on-year, but this must take into account the increase in the National Minimum Wage. This is an interesting figure, especially given the strengthening campaign for the voluntary Real Living Wage and the momentum behind it.

“Like it or not wages are part of what makes a ‘good job’, but it is not the only component and this needs to be considered when operating a minimum wage business model.”