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NI unemployment benefit count up for first time in 18 months, new labour market figures show


Mark Magill, Ulster University economist

Mark Magill, Ulster University economist

Mark Magill, Ulster University economist

Growth in Northern Ireland’s job market appears to be slowing down with less than a 0.1% increase in the number of employees in June.

And the number of people claiming jobs-related benefits was also up by 0.1% on May, in the first reported increase for the measure since February last year.

According to the Northern Ireland labour market statistics, there were 775,400 employees receiving pay through HMRC PAYE during June - while 775,400 the highest on record, the growth rate of 0.1% was a more sluggish rate of growth than in previous months.

Year-on-year, the number of employees had gone up by 2.8%. The PAYE system provides the most up to date evidence of the performance of the jobs market.

Employees during June had monthly median pay of £1,960, which was up £16 over the month, and £123 over the year.

But the claimant count during June reached 36,100, or 3.8% of the workforce, up 0.1% on the previous month and the first increase since February last year. The June figure remains 21% higher than the pre-pandemic count of March 2020.

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The NI Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra), which prepared the report, also said that there had been the lowest number of redundancies on record made over the last year, at 1,360.

However, there were 470 proposed redundancies in June, which was the highest number so far this year.

And the Labour Force Survey reported a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 2.6% for March to May, down 0.4 percentage points over the quarter and 1.6 percentage points over the year - a trend which Nisra said was “statistically significant”.

The employment rate was up by 2.7 percentage points over the year to 70.1%”, which Nisra also described as “statistically significant”.

Mark Magill, a senior economist at Ulster University, said the jobs recovery following the pandemic was not complete despite some improvements.

"On a year on year basis, Northern Ireland's 16 to 64-year-olds’ employment has increased by 34,000, 16-64 unemployment decreased by 13,000 and 16-64 economic inactivity decreased by 17k.

"But total employment is still 27,000 below, and economic inactivity 26,000, above, pre-pandemic levels.”