Reactions were wide and varied to the
latest labour and wages data released yesterday, showing New
Zealand showed strong employment growth in December, along
with subdued wage growth.
Unemployment fell to 6% in December from 6.2% in September
and the Household Labour Force Survey showed a second
successive quarter of strong employment growth.
However, the underlying story, at the national level, was not
probably quite as strong as the 1.1% quarterly employment
gain made out. Most of the fourth-quarter strength was
concentrated in Canterbury. Other employment indicators were
not as strong.
ASB chief economist Nick Tuffley said Canterbury's employment
rose 4.4% in the quarter, according to his
seasonally-adjusted estimate. Ex-Canterbury employment was up
just 0.3% in the quarter.
''The outsized strength of the rise in Canterbury employment
takes some of the gloss off the 1.1% headline number. So,
too, do the other measures of employment released today,'' he
Statistics New Zealand figures showed actual hours worked
fell 0.3% in the quarter to be up just 1.3% for the year. The
employment measures in the Quarterly Employment Survey did
not show any great strength. Fulltime equivalent employees
rose by 0.2% in the quarter and filled jobs rose by 0.4%.
Those measures were typically more stable than the Household
Labour Force Survey employment measure and continued to point
to a steady - rather than spectacular - increase in
employment growth since late-2012 early-2013, Mr Tuffley
Wage growth continued to track in line with expectations.
According to the more stable Labour Cost Index, total
ordinary time earnings rose 0.5% quarter-on-quarter and the
annual rate of growth was stable at 1.6%.
Quarterly wage growth did increase a little in the private
sector and that fitted with expectations of wage growth
reaching the bottom and climbing from there, he said.
''With unemployment still quite high, and with headline
consumer price inflation having been very low for a while,
wage growth is likely to pick up only gradually,'' Mr Tuffley
Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven
Joyce said the data confirmed the growth was right across the
country and showed the New Zealand economy was heading in the
New Zealand's unemployment rate remained better than most
OECD countries and was just behind Australia's 5.8%. New
Zealand had a significantly higher employment rate than
Australia because of the higher participation rate. The
average unemployment rate across the OECD was 7.8%.
''While steady progress is being made, as a country we need
to remain focused on encouraging investment that will bring
jobs and higher incomes for New Zealanders and their
families,'' Mr Joyce said.
Labour social development spokeswoman Sue Moroney said there
was no cause for celebration in the latest figures on
Despite a drop in the overall numbers of unemployed, the
figures for youth, Maori and women were all up significantly.
The number of unemployed 15- to 19-year-olds had increased
4000 since National took office.
Just as troubling was the number of youths not in education,
employment or training which had increased by 11,300 since
2008, she said.
Council of Trade Unions economist Bill Rosenberg said workers
were missing out on a ''fair share'' in the economy as
unemployment remained high and wages were stagnant.
The unemployment rate of 6% was disappointing, given 147,000
people were still out of work.
New Zealand had the fifth-highest economic growth rate in the
OECD but was 12th in unemployment, despite having been hit
much less hard by the global financial crisis, he said.
''At this stage in the recovery, New Zealand's unemployment
rate should be much lower. We should be disappointed it isn't
below 5%, rather than seeing it creep down at a glacial
Six years ago, before the GFC began, it was 3.5% and
Government efforts should be focused on returning it to that
rate, Mr Rosenberg said.