In today’s release of labour market statistics by the Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency (NISRA), key indicators reveal a mixed picture for the region’s employment landscape.

According to data from HMRC PAYE, the number of employees receiving pay in Northern Ireland witnessed a marginal 0.1 percent decrease over the month, totaling 796,400 in November 2023.

However, this figure marked a 1.7 percent increase compared to the previous year. Concurrently, median monthly pay experienced a decline of £38 (1.8%) over the month, reaching £2,064. Yet, over the year, earnings saw a rise of £46 (2.3%).

In contrast, UK earnings increased by £27 (1.2%) over the month and £117 (5.3%) over the year, highlighting a growing disparity with Northern Ireland, where earnings are now 11 percent below the UK average—the largest difference on record.

Claimant Count Rate Stable but Redundancies Soar

The claimant count rate remained relatively stable at 3.8 percent of the workforce in November 2023. However, this figure is 22.5 percent higher than the pre-pandemic count in March 2020. Meanwhile, confirmed redundancies in November 2023 numbered 410, bringing the annual total to 2,590—over three times higher than the previous year. Additionally, proposed redundancies in November reached 390, contributing to an annual total of 4,200, again approximately three times the figure for the preceding 12 months.

Significant Changes in Employment Rates and Hours Worked

The Labour Force Survey reported significant changes in employment rates and hours worked. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for August-October 2023 decreased by 0.6 percentage points to 2.1 percent over the quarter. The employment rate increased by 1.7 percentage points to 72.8 percent, and the total weekly hours worked rose by 3.5 percent to 28.7 million over the quarter.

Quarterly Employment Survey Highlights Job Growth

The Quarterly Employment Survey (QES) revealed that employee jobs increased by 0.9 percent over the quarter and 2.4 percent over the year, reaching a new series high of 822,870 jobs in September 2023.

What are the HR implications of this?

Ben Harrison, Director of the Work Foundation at Lancaster University, highlighted the nuanced nature of wage growth, cautioning that it may not fully reflect workers’ financial well-being. Julia Turney, Partner at Barnett Waddingham, emphasised the need for concrete government support and employer-driven strategies to enhance workforce productivity.

In the broader UK context, Joanne Frew commented on the steady market indicated by the ONS figures, noting the prolonged decrease in vacancies and the challenges employers face in meeting rising costs.

The current data underscores both positive trends in employment rates and concerning indicators, such as the widening gap in earnings compared to the UK and the notable increase in confirmed redundancies.

As the region navigates these dynamics, attention is turning to the evolving strategies needed for a resilient and robust labour market in 2024.

Neil Carberry, REC Chief Executive, said:

 “The labour market is clearly slowing, but employment is being underpinned by the fact that labour supply is so tight.

“Today’s data reflects emerging trends from our monthly Report on Jobs that pay pressures are receding. We expect that to continue as the high pay settlements paid by employers in 2023 fall out of the data over the next six months. In the medium-term, there is a risk of inflation returning and lower growth if we don’t address the challenges raised by shortages through skills investment, a focus on productivity and a more sensible approach to immigration for work. That’s why firms want to see government adopt a people and productivity focused industrial strategy.

“The number of vacancies is knocking on a million and, despite the longest period of falling numbers on record, is still above pre-pandemic levels. This shows the scale of the challenge we face. It’s time for the first priority to be growth – that’s the only way to bring the tax burden down and fund public services, and it requires our economy to be at the front of the government’s mind.”





Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.