There are now 10,000 fewer jobs in businesses such as shops and restaurants around Northern Ireland compared to a year ago as the pandemic and lockdowns take the heaviest toll on the services sector.
ccording to the latest labour market report for November to January, there were 770,900 employee roles here in December, with 9,070 jobs going since December 2019.
There was a fall of 2,400 employee jobs between the third and fourth quarters of the year, with construction as well as services accounting for large numbers of the losses.
However, year on year, the services sector - which includes businesses such as shops and restaurants, many of which have been closed for much of the last year - shed the most jobs, at 9,870.
And the employment rate for those aged 16 to 64 had fallen by 3 percentage points to 69.3%, a drop which the Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency, which gathers the figures, said was "statistically significant". In contrast, the UK's employment rate is 75%. There were also quarterly increases in the Northern Ireland economic inactivity rate, a measure of those who are neither in work nor looking for work, as it reached 28% - far above the UK rate of 21%.
And while down slightly quarter-on-quarter, the unemployment rate rose by 1.3 percentage points to 3.7% from November to January, though it remained well-below the UK's rate of 5%.
The claimant count of people on unemployment benefits also grew in February for the first time since May, reaching 58,900.
But economists Marguerite McPeake and Mark Magill of the Ulster University economic policy centre said unemployment would have increased more without the government's Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and self-employed income support scheme (SEISS).
Around 106,000 people in NI were enrolled on the CJRS, under which the Government pays 80% of the wages of an employee whose work has been affected by the pandemic, at the end of January.
The economists added: "Looking ahead, with the vaccine rollout an end to restrictions is in sight. As we move into the summer months and plan for a gradual easing of restrictions it is important that we begin to plan for a jobs recovery.
There have been 10,650 redundancies proposed in the last year - double the previous 12 months although no new redundancies were proposed in February. However, 420 were confirmed.
Data from HMRC said there were 744,300 people receiving wages through HMRC PAYE in January, which was up 0.2% over the month though down by 0.9% over the year. The number rose again in February to 746,100.
Earnings data from HMRC indicated that NI employees had a median monthly salary of £1,775 in January, down 0.7% over the month but up 4.8% over the year.
Meanwhile, Economy Minister Diane Dodds said she was hopeful Northern Ireland's economic recovery can begin and that we can we "leave behind" the challenges of the last 12 months.
She spoke as the UK marked one year since a national lockdown was imposed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to contain the spread of Covid-19.
The Executive's pathway out of restrictions does not contain dates for the reopening of sectors though the minister said business needed certainty, citing her department's own economic recovery action plan, which includes measures such as a high street stimulus scheme and a flexible skills fund.
She said: "I am in awe of the resilience that people have shown throughout this pandemic, but now that the vaccine roll out is advancing at pace and pupils are returning to school there is light at the end of the tunnel.
"It is therefore important we turn our focus to reopening, recovering and rebuilding the local economy, ensure that all of retail can begin trading safely again and hospitality can open its doors to its customers once again."