Just under a quarter of a million employed workers in Northern Ireland signed up to the government's job retention scheme after the lockdown began in March, as the Covid-19 pandemic forced businesses to close and the economic shock took its toll.
This year has seen many businesses furlough staff or face the difficult decision to make employees redundant, and some may face an even more difficult decision to close completely.
In the table below we list Northern Ireland's Top 50 biggest employers, including supermarkets Tesco and Asda which, in 2018, had over 9,800 and over 4,100 staff respectively . Other big employers in the region include Moy Park, Bombardier Shorts and care home provider Four Seasons.
Through the Equality Commission, details are published of the numbers employed by all private sector businesses (employing more than 25 people). There were, in the last report from the Equality Commission, 16 businesses which employed more than 2,100 people in Northern Ireland.
The data was provided to the Equality Commission by employers, based on their workforces in the year 2018. It is the most up-to-date data available.
In the year-by-year comparison, the numbers employed by these larger businesses retrospectively reflect trends from the wider economy before the Covid-19 pandemic. Retailing in the big groups showed further expansion, which may not be continuing in 2020. Private sector service providers had already tended to reduce their employment.