Employment rises in Northern Ireland as it outperforms other UK regions

While retention of staff has been highlighted as an ongoing concern, employee jobs have reached a record high, and the unemployment rate here has returned to a pre-pandemic level.

Employment rate, hours worked and economic inactivity have not yet returned to their pre-pandemic position but continue to show improvement, said the Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency.

The latest figures include 440 proposed redundancies last month, the highest number since April 2022 but below the long-term trend.

Actual reported redundancies totalled 20 in February, and 940 for the year to February 2023, down 54% on the previous year.

HMRC PAYE data indicated NI employees had a median monthly pay of £2,047 in February 2023, an increase of 0.5% month on month and 7% year on year.

The figures include statistically significant annual changes, according to Marie-Claire Logue, an employment law expert in DWF’s Belfast office.

Marie-Claire Logue, employment law expert in DWF’s Belfast office

“Employee jobs increased over the year by 3.5%, with the proportion of people aged 16 to 65 in work increasing by 3.1% over the year to 71.8%,” said Ms Logue. “This was complemented by the economic inactivity rate decreasing by 2.5% over the year to 26.4%.

“Unemployment rate has returned to its pre-pandemic position and employee jobs have reached a record high (with payrolled employee numbers increasing by 0.4% over the month alone), with the NI unemployment rate remaining below the GB rate.

“There has been a quarterly, and annual, increase in employee jobs which had reached a series high in December 2022. This has been largely driven by the services industry sector, with positive reports coming from the construction and manufacturing services as well.

“Despite a fairly stable market there is still a large degree of industrial unrest, with teachers and healthcare workers taking part in strike action. In addition to industrial action, attraction and retention of staff remains a cause for concern for employers as the cost-of-living crisis continues.

“However, with employment rising at its fastest pace in 15 months within NI (outperforming the other regions and nations in the UK), it is positive to see a rise in confidence within the NI labour market.”

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