The State of Britain

Aviation sector job losses mount up but NIs unemployment rate still the lowest in the UK

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Job losses in NI’s tourism and aviation sectors have come to fruition this month as the disruption from the pandemic continues.

Bombardier announced 600 job losses at its Northern Ireland operations shortly after Thompson Aero Seating, which makes seats for airlines like Qantas and Aer Lingus, said it would make up to 500 redundancies at its Portadown factories.

In Antrim, tyre pressure sensor manufacturer, Sensata Technologies, is planning to make 160 staff redundant. Earlier this year, the firm said it would close its Carrickfergus factory with the loss of 270 jobs. The company currently employs over 1000 staff in Northern Ireland.

At the Titanic Belfast visitor centre 75 jobs are at risk with a further 11 positions under threat at TBL International, an events company linked to the centre and the SS Nomadic. Titanic Belfast is due to reopen on 1 August.

More positively, digital education platform Firefly is investing in Northern Ireland for the first time, creating 52 jobs. The online platform helps schools and teachers deliver lessons remotely and is in demand due to the pandemic.  Invest NI has offered £520,000 to support the employment of developers, researchers, designers and mobile app developers.

The Stats

This month the ONS published regional household disposal income figures for 2018. Total gross disposable household income (GDHI) in the UK in 2018 was £1.4bn. Of that, 86.3% was in England, 7.6% was in Scotland, 3.8% was in Wales and 2.3% was in Northern Ireland.

The average UK income per head after direct and indirect taxes were taken off was £21,109.  England was the only country above the UK average at £21,609 but growth in incomes was best in Scotland and Northern Ireland at 5.1% and 4.7%. England’s growth was the same as the UK at 4.6%; Wales grew by 4.4%.

At a regional level, London had the highest GDHI per head where, on average, each person had £29,362 available to spend or save; the North East had the lowest at £16,995 which compares with a UK average of £21,109. NI was £17,340.

At a local level, Kensington and Chelsea and Hammersmith and Fulham had the highest GDHI per head at £63,286 with Nottingham the lowest at £13,138. All the top 10 local areas were in London or the South East with the bottom 10 within the North West, Yorkshire and The Humber, East Midlands, West Midlands, and Northern Ireland regions.

The wealthiest part of NI was Lisburn and Castlereagh with incomes of £20,011. This ranked the area 78th out of 179 districts of the UK.

The poorest areas of the province were Derry City and Strabane at £15,348, followed by Newry, Mourne and Down at £16,535. Derry City and Strabane was ranked 171st in the UK, Nottingham and Leicester were bottom.

In terms of regional growth, the largest increase was in London at 5.2% with the smallest in the East Midlands at 3.6%. NI was 4.7%.

At the local level, Kensington & Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham district was best again in the UK with growth of 7.6% whereas Luton was the worst and only grew by 0.9%.

In NI, income growth in Causeway Coast and Glens was top at 5.5% with Lisburn and Castlereagh second at 5.2%. Antrim and Newtownabbey was the worst regional performer with growth of 3.2%, a ranking of 155th.


More data from the ONS showed unemployment in the province fell by 1,000 to 20,000 between February and April; the drop of 0.1% took the rate to 2.3%. Despite narrowing the gap with the West Midlands (4.8%), at 5.2% the North East of England was still the highest; Northern Ireland maintained the lowest rate, with the UK rate at 3.9%.

The South East had the highest employment rate again at 79.5% which compared with 71.6% in NI where 0.9m are employed; the UK rate was 76.4%.

Public sector employment in NI increased by 1.0% in March to 214.000, which was 25.2% of the workforce. Northern Ireland had the highest level of public sector employment which compared to 13.9% in London which was the lowest.

In March, average earnings in NI were unchanged at £537 per week. London had the highest average earnings of £847 and the lowest were in Northern Ireland.

Earnings in the NE increased the most in the UK by £60 per week whereas the biggest drop in wages was £37 in Scotland.

In the UK overall, average earnings grew by 1.7% or by 0.4% after inflation. If bonuses are included real pay fell by 0.4%.

The public sector saw the highest estimated growth, at 3.2% for regular pay, while negative growth was seen in the construction sector, estimated at negative 1.8%. Both the wholesaling, retailing, hotels and restaurants sector and the manufacturing sector saw very weak growth at 0.1% for regular pay.