Some employment statistics

Yesterday, NIO Minister Angela Smith welcomed the lowest ever NI unemployment figures – of 4%, 2nd lowest in the UK, and revealed that there were 693,450 employee jobs filled in September 2005. So, in light of the claim by one commenter in a previous thread on the percentage of the workforce employed in the public sector I though I’d have a closer look at those figures – see over the fold.The Equality Commission recently released its findings on the NI workforce which gives the figures for 2004.. as I noted here

Those figures show that 188,000 people were employed, either full or part time, in the public sector in 2004 – see the report summary[pdf file]

As Angela Smith pointed out yesterday

Seasonally adjusted figures from the Quarterly Employment Survey show the highest number of employee jobs on record for Northern Ireland. The survey estimated that there were 693,450 employee jobs filled in September 2005, representing a net increase of 270 over the quarter and an increase of 9,710 over the year. Over three-quarters of the annual increase in jobs was accounted for by a rise in full-time work.

That’s 693,450 total workforce this year. And if we use the numbers given, in 2004 that figure would have been 683,740 of which 188,000 were employed in the public sector – or 27.5%. The statement yesterday also pointed out that –

The Minister said: “The number of jobs in Northern Ireland has grown steadily over the last two and a half years, despite the difficult trading conditions in which our businesses are operating. The success of private sector services in Northern Ireland has been key to this growth, contributing over 8,000 jobs during the last year alone.

Which also leaves, approximately, 1,710 new public sector employees in the last year compared to the 8,000 new private sector jobs.

But it’s also worth highlighting how those public sector jobs are distributed between the various areas of employment – Health, Civil Service, Education, Security-related and District Councils, again from the Equality Commission report summary

In 2004 there were almost 157,000 full-time employees in the public sector, an increase of just under 5,800 employees (3.8%) from 2003. The public sector is comprised of five main sectors, namely: Health, containing one-third (34.4%) of all public sector full-time employees, followed by the Civil Service (26% of employees), Education (14%), Security-related employment (11%) and District Councils (6%).

Trimming down the Civil Service would reduce the number employed in that sector.. but there is little prospect of seriously reducing the number of people employed in the Health and Education sectors.

Now I may be missing something that’s obvious to everyone else.. and my arithmetic may have slipped up somewhere.. but I think it’s important to get a grasp of the actual figures involved.. and what they represent.

  • I think when ever statistics like these are published we need to understand that they are being used by the British ministers to bolster their position in the North of Ireland. What is not mentioned are the numbers claiming sickness benifits such as DLA, etc and those who have been employed on a temporary basis to cover for the pre-Christmas rush.

    I would imagine if the truth were told the ‘real’ unemployment figures would be much higher.

  • Crataegus


    There are also people doing the double, but take your point.

  • CS Parnell


    What *really* is your point? Angela Smith and the Labour Party don’t need any votes off people in the North of Ireland. I think Nationalists should acknowledge that they are telling the truth when they say they have “no selfish strategic interest” in the North. That doesn’t mean they get everything right, but it does mean that they aren’t part of a conspiracy to destroy the Irish people.

    Unemployment has fallen – by a huge amount. Some us remember when it was over 20% and the Tories were in power.

    And, yes Catholics have benefitted from the fall more than Protestants, but that is because there were more Catholics unemployed than Protestants to start with.

    Of course the bulk of this unmepoloyment is still West of the Bann and so more Catholics are unemployed than, say, the full employment economy of Northern County Down.

    But 27% public employment is still a massive figure. Remember the biggest bit of state spending are transfer payments – the dole and so on – where employment levels are very low in comparison to money spent. I’d guess the UK average on state employment is probably just below 20% and in the neoliberal Republic lower still.

    Nationalists also need to recognise that a transition towards a united or (as is more likely in my lifetime) more united Ireland also means facing up to some pretty uncomfortable restructuring and a less passive attitude to the devil-take-the-hindmost society in the Republic. It is, after all, a new Ireland we are trying to create not the bolt on of the North to the existing state.

  • CS Parnell

    This suggests that the figure is actually 30% compared to a UK average of just over 20%

  • Pete Baker

    Well, CS, I was working from the figures I had available.. and the percentage I arrived at relates to September 2004.

    But the Notes to your link have this to say –

    “Public Sector data for Northern Ireland relate to the number of public sector jobs in the country not the number of people working in the public sector.”

  • belfastguy

    As the the Equality Commission derive their figures from employer specific data they are ‘technically’ counting jobs as well.. ie one person working full time in one job and part time in another would be counted in both (2 jobs) – hence the count is also jobs and not people..

    I think we can agree that the figure is approx 30% (give or take a margin of error)

  • Pete Baker


    It is interesting to note, from the link you supplied, and despite the UK average, the comparable percentage figures for Scotland and Wales –

    Scotland (24 per cent), and Wales (23 per cent)

  • John East Belfast

    Surely the question has to be do we have more teachers and doctors for pupil and patient ratios ?

    The vast majority in the public sector do invaluable work delivering services we all value.

    There is this obsession with drawing a line around NI and saying it should be able to economically stand on its own two feet – if you drew a similar line around many parts of the UK you would get greater similar and probably worse levels of public and private ratios. You would get the same if you drew a line around parts of the ROI.

    Northern Ireland just happens to be one part of the United Kingdom where 1.7m British citisens live – who says that geographical entity should deliver a Net Profit every year ?

    Who says that if the same level of education and health and public service delivery are to be enjoyed by all British citisens we have to have more people working in the Private than the public Sector – infact without substantial immigration it might not be possible to provide that level of service if more people were employed in the private sector.

    There are many individuals and companies that pay more taxes in NI than their South east of England counterparts.

    However the whole purpose of the United Kingdom is to bear one another up – not slice and dice it and put a £ sign on it.

    Fundamentally I am a British not a Northern Irish or Irish citisen – I share in the overall wealth of the nation.

  • Mickhall


    You claimed Disability Living Allowance is a sickness benefit. It is not, it is a benefit designed specifically to help the disabled. The benefit has a very strict criteria to qualify for it. To get the DLA mobility component, one must only be able to walk a few paces at most and not unaided, and for the care component, one would be unable to cook meals, clean oneself toilet wise, etc.

    I mention this because the Blair government has a disgraceful record in neglecting and refusing to offer adequate support to the disabled. A recent survey found that four out of ten disabled people live below the poverty line due to no fault of their own.

    The benefit I think you mean is Invalidity Benefit, which is paid to people who are off work sick for more than 6 months. I understand why you made this mistake because the government announced there was over two million people UK wide receiving Disability Living Allowance, hence they were reforming it, This was a lead story on the 24 hour news channels for almost 24 hours, despite the disabled rights groups having pointed out to the government there mistake. It was only when senior people in the media challenged Blair on this, that his government admitted they meant the IB.

    There purpose was obvious, anyone who does not work is feckless and lazy, no matter what there physical health. They attack the least able to defend themselves, in this case the disabled, but pour over 6 billion pounds down the drain on a foreign war that brings no benefit to the majority of UK subjects.
    I do not believe even a conservative UK government would treat the disabled in such a disgraceful manner.


    By the way Pete, good post

  • harry flashman

    Yeah Mickhall, the DLA is only for disabled people, hmmm, the Derry Living Allowance is how wags back home call it. I think the Derry Journal had a headline once about the appalling statistic that 50% of the people of the Brandywell were disabled. It was a real shocker as I drove through the Brandywell four times a day and never once saw a wheelchair or blind person, I suppose I wouldn’t though as a fair proportion of these disabled people were delivering pizzas and using their nice new deisel Vauxhalls as taxis.

    Aye but there I go again I’m just a neo-con fascist what do I know compared to a bleeding heart socialist? I mean who am I going to believe Mickhall or my own lying eyes?

  • Crataegus

    Flashman And Mickhall

    You are both right many disabled people and poor, particularly the elderly, simply don’t get what they are entitled to or get a pittance and are living in real hardship. On the other hand I know a lot of people who are abusing the system, and it is not anecdotal.

    I can even a remember a bill board ad by a major car sales business advertising that it was the largest car provider for the disabled in **** Belfast. There is serious abuse I know an entire family who are disabled even the teenage son and daughter!!! The only thing wrong with any of them is their attitude. They live off benefits and insurance claims. Shameless. On the other I have seen dire poverty, elderly people to frightened to turn on the heating system and freezing. It really annoys me.

  • Lies, damn lies and ststistics Harry!

  • statistics!

  • Brian Boru

    “Northern Ireland just happens to be one part of the United Kingdom where 1.7m British citisens live – who says that geographical entity should deliver a Net Profit every year ? ”

    Well the “shareholder” might have something to say about that.

  • Scotsman

    BTW, how many of the 1.7million are British citizens. Quite a few I knew in West Belfast had Irish passports. Anyone know the stats for Irish passport-holders born in NI?

  • fair_deal

    The strong growth in the private sector employment is a positive one but whatever the stats about how large the public sector is it is still too large.

    For those who do not take up benefit entitlements targeted direct assistance is needed and we probably need to debate how best to target them. To be fair the state it cannot make people make applications although looking at the forms you can see why many wouldn’t.

    As for abuse of the system, it shouldn’t be overlooked that the SSA has encouraged people to go ‘on the sick’ at times to massage unemployment figures and attractive for the claimant as its an extra £10 or so a week. However, these minor abusers are often dwarfed by those who systematically abuse the benefits system for much more. As benefits are not part of the block grant system the public agencies sometimes have a laxidaisical approach to stopping abuse.

    There is also the culutral problem of entitlement programmes over generations it can encourage unhelpful cultural attitudes. personally think we should be looking at workfare.

  • Crataegus


    “personally think we should be looking at workfare.”

    It would be worth looking at. The idea that able bodied people who are unemployed should do nothing for society really does need to be questioned. A radical shake up of the system and culture that seems to have developed would do no harm. If you get people flagrantly abusing the system it has a corrosive effect on the moral of those working often on fairly low pay. If everyone is contributing something we are all better off.

    We would also need to couple this with some sort of realistic approach to those in genuine need so they do get their entitlement.

  • fair_deal

    “We would also need to couple this with some sort of realistic approach to those in genuine need so they do get their entitlement. ”

    Agree there are two probelms with the system and both need addressed.

  • George

    From the Northern Ireland Social Security Agency 2005

    Income Support 100,000
    Jobseekers Allowance 31,000
    Disability Living Allowance 164,000
    Incapacity Benefit 109,000

    From Department of Social Welfare in the Republic 2005

    Unemployment Assistance and benefit 129,000
    Back to Work or Education Allowance 16,500
    Disability Allowance 78,800
    Disability Benefit 63,800
    Invalidity Pension 59,100

    According to these figures there are 273,000 on incapacity or disability allowance north of the border and 201,700 south of the border.

    Now considering the population of the Republic is 4.1 million as opposed to 1.7 million Northern Ireland, you would expect a figure of 83,300 north of the border.

    Maybe this can be explained by the fact these benefits are designated totally differently north of the border as I am no expert on the welfare system but if they are comparable that leaves 189,700 more people on these benefits than there should be, statistically that is.

    That’s an awful lot of people. More than work in the entire public sector.

  • Mickhall


    Firstly one does not have to be blind or in a wheelchair to be disabled and what this subject has to do with the left-right argument is beyond me, as in my post I pointed out the UK Conservative government IMO treated disabled people in a more sympathetic and decent manner that the current Labour Government.

    Once again we are getting the dogs in the street argument from people like Harry. no facts or statistics are necessary, all one needs to know all about the plight or other wise of the disabled is to drive through the Brandywell and if one does not spot a blind-man or wheelchair then hell all those getting these benefits are on the con.

    If anyone claims it is easy to get DLA then they have had no experience of claiming it nor do they know anyone who has. My son in law works for the CAB legal department, which represents people who have been refused this benefit and wish to appeal this decision. One client was refused DLA even though he had throat cancer, he was refused it on the basis that his consultant said “there is always hope in such cases of remission. This client never got to go before a tribunal as he died whilst waiting to do so. Another claimant suffered from frequent migraine attacks which incapacitated her for days at a time. Her consultant confirmed this in writing but she was turned down as the departed of pensions does not have Migraine down as a disabling illness. Incidentally this woman had worked continuously from the age of 16 to 57, when her employer made he redundant due to ill health, after having had her examined by a Harley Street consultant Neurologist due to the amount of time she was forced to take off work due to her illness. He confirmed she had a disabling illness which made her unable to work. I could quote a host of similar cases.

    Of course there is fraud in any system of benefits, but this should be dealt with in a civilized and efficient manner and not to the detriment of the majority of genuine claimants; and certainly not by using the media to get people to turn against the sick and disabled as the Blair government has done for electoral purposes to prove how tough they are on so called scroungers.

    One of the interesting points about the woman I mentioned above is that she told my son in law before she attempted to claim IB, etc, she also felt anyone could get these sickness and disablement benefits; and only scroungers claimed them continuously. That is until she found herself in need and on the sharp end of life. I sincerely hope Harry and those other sluggerites who are prepared to believe the dogs in the street whenever they bark, don’t find themselves in the same position as the likes of the claimants I have mentioned.

    Sorry sluggerites for not getting to the meat of this thread which is important, but when people spread or believe misinformation one should at least try an challenge such subjective prejudice.

    Happy Christmas to all.

  • Scotsman

    Mick Hall is right- IB is not easy to claim these days, if it ever was.

    I think DLA is available to pensioners, so we should treat figures with caution.

    We do have a form of workfare in the UK through the New Deal. Back in 1997, Gordon Brown promised that after 6 months on JSA you would be offered work, training, education or voluntary work(?) and that there would be “No fifth option.”

    There was a tendency under John Major to shift the long-term unemployed onto IB (the fact that many had become depressed after so long on the dole helped) but this is supposed to have been made tougher.

    The minimum wage and working tax credit have been designed to help boost the attractiveness of lower-paid jobs to the unemployed- but do the employers want the people that are “available”?

    The presence of Poles and Portugese in NI implies that employers prefer not to go to the trouble of dealing with the many local people who have become strangers to the workplace.

  • IJP

    These figures are very good – we should, however, note some others.

    – Female earnings are the highest in the UK outside the Southeast of England and Scotland;
    – Public sector median earnings are higher than in Great Britain; and
    – Claimant count is notably higher than in other UK regions, and more obviously the percentage of those in employment is significantly lower in NI than in GB.

    The first two, frankly, mean that the Unions need to be very careful what they ask for. Some specific groups (e.g. teachers) have a genuine case for equalization of earnings. Quite a few others, however, do not…

    The last one is the real concern, of course. Scotsman puts it very undiplomatically but he’s not far off. Such is our ‘rights culture’, it’s almost like we have a ‘right to benefits’. (Mind, to be fair, you don’t see too many government ads challenging the middle classes about dodgy self-assessment tax returns…)

  • George

    “Claimant count is notably higher than in other UK regions, and more obviously the percentage of those in employment is significantly lower in NI than in GB.”

    This is true but what is worrying me is that, according to DETI, the latest working age employment rate is estimated at 69.6% as opposed to a UK average of 74%.
    So there isn’t a huge difference.
    I’m wary of that because the Republic has over 1.9 million at work so if we compare simply by population, theres should be 799,000.

    Where are these 100,000 people?

    The working age economic inactivity rate for NI is 27.4%. This is significantly higher than the UK average rate (21.3%) and is the highest of the 12 UK regions.

    But 93% (491,000 people) of the inactive do not want work.

    Is this a case of improving Northern Ireland’s economic fortunes by forcing people into the workforce?

    What is going on if a quarter of the working age population actually don’t want to work?

    Is it that the culture of women staying in the home is so much stronger?

  • seabhac siulach

    “average employment rate is estimated at 69.6% as opposed to a UK average of 74%”

    But this is only measuring those registered as actively ‘looking for work’, I would imagine. (Or is it instead based on census returns?)

    “Where are these 100,000 people?”

    Is it possible that these 100,000 people are across the border and working in the South? On anecdotal evidence there are a large number of northerners working in the south of Ireland.
    So, if these 100,000 people are not registered as looking for work in the North then they will not appear on any 6 county statistics…

    Or, perhaps, all of this is Friday afternoon crazy talk…

  • Scotsman

    My point on the presence of immigrant labour is that these people are not undercutting existing workers, nor are they normally filling “skilled” vacancies.

    Yet there are many thousands of local people who are not economically active, so there is clearly some kind of labour market failure.

    The government has made significant attempts to try and address this, using both carrot (minimum wage and tax credits) and stick (toughening up on IB claims process.) The New Deal has a bit of both in it.

    Clearly, though, it’s still a problem.

    For all that HMG lectures France or Germany about unemployment, by the time you add in our economically inactive, there’s not that much difference.

  • George

    Seabhan siulach,
    if we just look at the overall populations and forget everything else:

    UK: 47% out of 60 million are in work

    Irish Republic: 47% out of 4.1 million are in work

    Northern Ireland: 40.7% out of 1.7 million are in work.

    From this it’s clear that there should be nearly 800,000 people at work in Northern Ireland unless there is some reason it is such an outlier. I can’t think of one.

    I don’t know where these 100,000 people are and who is paying for them but if they could be got into the workforce things would certainly pick up.

  • mnob

    well 4% of the difference is those under 15 (22% UK, 18% NI).

  • Crataegus

    My impression is that there is a rapidly increasing number of skilled immigrants in the Health Service and a lot of Building Trades now seem to have a fair sprinkling of East Europeans.

    Just an observation, but my mother was having some work done to her abode and yes workers disappearing off to sign on is still alive and well in that industry.

    The point about some locals being unemployable, is correct. They don’t want to be employable. We need some strictures in the system to make such people take a more positive attitude to their responsibilities.


    It is not that any of us want to make it more difficult for those in genuine need, quite the opposite, but we need to minimise abuse as it is rife in some areas. In a very basic sense it creates a negative attitude which is to no one’s advantage particularly the children growing up in such an environment.

  • IJP


    I suspect it’s the age profile.

    Plus, neither the UK nor the Republic is much good at keeping up-to-date with their own populations (the UK census in 2001 seemed to ‘lose’ 1 million people, for example).

  • GH

    IJP needs to look more closely at the statistics he quotes: they are AVERAGES and averages conceal the huge levels of inequality in Ireland North and South, but even more so in the North. In fact, as InvestNI never tire telling the world, our wage levels here are some 25-35% below those in the rest of UK/EU.

    Further, we do have far higher levels of disability than other parts of these islands – a combination one suspects of the impact of the conflict and of poverty. Census figures show 41% of households here have at least one member with a long-term limiting illness or disability. Anyone with even the most minor disability will tell you how little employers want to know you; in spite of the DDA, it’s almost impossible to get a job with a disability/known chronic illness.

    And for those who want workfare, what is going to happen in places like Derry and Strabane where jobs are few and far between. Two examples confirmed by the companies involved: Debenhams advertised 225 jobs in Derry, most of them part-time: 6,500 people applied. B&Q advertised 22 jobs; 1,000 people applied. So, they don’t want to work, eh?

  • Brian Boru

    Right but in GDP terms, the public-sector still accounts for 63% of the economy compared to 38% in the Republic. There is far less growth potential most economic activity is either due to the public-sector directly, or from ancillary industries to the public-sector. NI needs to concentrate on export markets because its own tiny domestic market offers far less growth potential than billions of people around the world. Narrow provincialist isolationism is self-defeating.