The latest labour market statistics, released by the Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency, present a nuanced picture of the region’s economic health as of October 2023.
While there are positive indications in terms of employee numbers and earnings, concerns are raised by high redundancy figures and a stagnant claimant count.
Employment and Earnings on the Upswing
The number of payrolled employees in Northern Ireland increased by 0.3% over the month, marking a 2.0% rise over the year, with the total count reaching 797,400. This growth is coupled with an uptick in earnings, as median monthly pay rose to £2,100 in October 2023, reflecting a modest monthly increase of £2 (0.1%) and a more substantial annual rise of £118 (6.0%).
The finance and insurance sector was the only one to see a decrease in earnings (1.9%), whereas public administration, defence, and education sectors witnessed the smallest annual increases, all below the Northern Ireland average.
A worrying trend is evident in the number of redundancies. October 2023 saw 450 redundancies, contributing to a yearly total of 2,200 – more than double the figure from the previous year. The number of proposed redundancies in the 12-month period leading up to October 2023 was a staggering 4,000, marking a significant increase from the previous year’s total of 1,290.
Labour Force Survey Findings
The Labour Force Survey (LFS) provides additional context, showing statistically significant changes in employment and unemployment rates over the year. The unemployment rate for July-September 2023 was estimated at 2.1%, a decrease from the previous year, while the employment rate for people aged 16 to 64 increased to 72.2%. These changes indicate a favourable shift compared to the same period last year.
Moreover, the total number of weekly hours worked in Northern Ireland increased by 4.9% over the year to 27.8 million, although still below the pre-pandemic level. The economic inactivity rate saw a decrease over the year to 26.3%.
Claimant Count: No Significant Change
In contrast, the claimant count rate in October 2023, which measures the number of people claiming benefits primarily for reasons of unemployment, remained relatively unchanged at 3.8% of the workforce. This rate has been consistent for nineteen consecutive months, indicating a static aspect of the labour market.
The latest statistics offer a mixed view of the Northern Ireland labour market. On one hand, the increase in payrolled employees and a rise in earnings point to a recovering job market post-pandemic. However, the high number of redundancies and a stagnant claimant count rate paint a more complex picture, reflecting the ongoing challenges faced by the economy.