Net migration positive for third month

Jane Turner
Jane Turner
The gloss is starting to come off the Australian labour market as unemployment rises, meaning fewer New Zealanders are crossing the Tasman to live.

Figures out yesterday from Statistics New Zealand showed net migration was positive for the third month in a row in November. An upwards trend appears to be establishing. In particular, net departures to Australia are reducing, with the net loss to Australia at its lowest since February 2011.

Westpac economist Nathan Penny said the increase in total net migration was mainly due to fewer departures by New Zealanders to Australia, down 270 in November to 3810 - the first month below 4000 since January 2011. Also, New Zealanders returning home from Australia increased by 70. Net migration by non-New Zealanders was largely unchanged.

The 590 increase in net migration was the highest since October 2011.

ASB economist Jane Turner said that while departures to Australia remained at elevated levels, they had steadily fallen over the past four months, suggesting a change in trend.

''Over the coming year, as Canterbury rebuild activity picks up, we expect the improving labour market in New Zealand to also boost net migration.''

The turnaround in net migration was likely to place additional strain on the undersupplied housing market, she said.

There had been some tentative signs of increased building activity in Auckland and Canterbury that might help to alleviate some of the housing-market pressure.

The Reserve Bank had become more wary about recent housing-market developments and the risks stronger house-price inflation posed to inflation and financial stability, Ms Turner said.

Given the economy continued to underperform expectations, ASB expected the Reserve Bank to leave the official cash rate unchanged at 2.5% until December next year.

If the housing-market developments continued to concern the central bank, it might consider using macro-prudential tools to reduce some of the heat in the market at some point, she said.

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