Government claims of a slow sustained recovery in the
economy will be put to the test in the next few months, as New
Zealand's unemployment rate edges up and a modest lift in
employment fails to materialise.
Employment fell fractionally in the June quarter, due to a
surprisingly sharp fall in Canterbury employment. Outside
Canterbury, employment lifted, recovering from weaker results
during the last six months.
This week, Social Development Minister Paula Bennett headed a
press release with: "Canterbury employment remains a high
priority". The minister went on to announce a deal with
Hawkins Construction, Fletcher Building and Work and Income
about taking on job seekers.
Since August last year, Hawkins had taken on 60 Christchurch
job seekers and in the last nine months, Fletcher Building
had employed 26 local people who were on benefits.
Statistics New Zealand figures showed the weakness in overall
employment levels was driven entirely by a 6.6% quarterly
fall in Canterbury employment after a promising 5.1% gain in
ASB economist Jane Turner had been expecting further gains in
Canterbury employment, given building consents and cement
usage suggested further acceleration in earthquake
reconstruction activity in the region.
"Employment figures are often quite volatile even at a
national level - let alone a regional level. Nevertheless, we
will be watching retail and construction data over the next
month for indications of whether the rebuild is still picking
up momentum or temporarily stalled last quarter."
Ms Turner maintained the second quarter GDP forecast of 0.3%
growth, at this stage.
Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said the latest "dire
unemployment statistics" were a testament to the failed
economic management of the John Key-led Government.
"More than three years since John Key promised New Zealand he
would have an 'unrelenting focus on jobs', unemployment is
"While National ministers are slapping themselves on the back
for programmes that get a handful of people into work, the
number of people out of work under their watch has ballooned
When those who had given up looking were counted alongside
the official unemployed, there were more than a quarter of a
million jobless Kiwis, she said.
Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven
Joyce said the latest household labour force survey
underlined the need for New Zealand to take up all its
opportunities for productive growth.
The results showed it was important businesses were allowed
the opportunity to grow and create jobs across the economy.
That included the intensification of agriculture, the
development of aquaculture, greater foreign investment,
encouraging hi-tech industries, expanding oil and gas
exploration and progressing an international convention
centre in Auckland, he said in a direct reference to many
Green Party policies opposing that sort of development.
"Those that oppose some or all of these things need to
understand you can't have more jobs without taking up these
"It's vital that we put out the welcome mat to businesses
given the backdrop of the global financial crisis and the
ongoing impact of the Canterbury earthquakes," Mr Joyce said.
Across the Tasman, Australia's unemployment fell to 5.2% in
July, from 5.3% the previous month, the Australian Bureau of
Statistics said yesterday. There was a rise of 14,000 in
total employment in July.
At a glance
• Unemployment rises to 6.8% in June
• Employment rate falls to 63.8%
• 162,000 people unemployed, the highest since 1994
• 5000 fewer men in employment, 3000 more women in
• OCR on hold until June next year