No evidence of RWC hiring boom in jobless stats

New Zealand's unemployment rate unexpectedly rose in the third quarter, with little evidence the start of the Rugby World Cup drove an increase in casual workers to service the wave of tourists.

The unemployment rate rose to 6.6 percent in the three months ended September 30 from 6.5 percent in the June quarter, according to Statistics New Zealand's Household Labour Force Survey.

That missed the expected 6.4 percent figure forecast by a Reuters survey of economists, with analysts predicting the rugby tournament would stoke a rash of new hiring as vendors prepared for some 85,000 tourists arriving for the event. The participation rate rose 0.1 percentage point to 68.4 percent as fewer people stayed out of the workforce.

A 0.6 percent reduction in part-time workers to 500,000 led the decline, though full-time employment was up 0.4 percent to 1.72 million in the quarter. The tick up in full-time workers helped lift total hours worked 1 percent to a seasonally adjusted 74.88 million hours.

"The growth in employment reflects a rise in full-time employment, while part-time employment dropped slightly over the quarter,'' industry and labour statistics manager Diane Ramsay said in a statement.

The data comes after Tuesday's quarterly employment survey showed the number of full-time equivalent employees dropped 0.6 percent to 1.32 million in the period, with total filled jobs flat at 1.69 million. On a seasonally adjusted basis FTEs rose 0.1 percent and filled jobs grew 0.7 percent.

The tepid jobs market will help ally inflationary fears for Reserve Bank Governor Alan Bollard, who last week kept the official cash rate at a record-low 2.5 percent as the global financial volatility and slow-down in the economic recovery give him cause to keep stimulating the economy.

The New Zealand dollar fell to 78.71 US cents from 79.13 cents immediately before the figures were released.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett yesterday released the government's welfare plan, which aims to streamline the benefit system and speed up efforts to shift unemployed and certain sickness beneficiaries back into paid work. The policy expects to move as many as 46,000 people off welfare and shift a further 11,000 people into part-time work over the next four years.

The number of people employed grew 0.2 percent to 2.22 million in the three months ended Sept. 30, falling short of the 0.4 percent growth predicted in a Reuters survey. The actual number of unemployed rose 1.7 percent in the quarter to 157,000, the most since the December quarter last year. The number of people not in the labour force fell 0.2 percent to 1.1 million.

The number of people employed in agriculture, forestry and fishing fell 4.3 percent to 147,700 in the quarter, while manufacturing was flat at 244,800. Construction grew 1.5 percent to 173,700 in the period.

Youth joblessness improved in the quarter for 15- to 19-year-olds dropping to a year-low 23.4 percent from 27.6 percent in the June quarter, though 20- to 24-year-olds' rate of unemployment grew to 12.2 percent from 11.2 percent.

Today's data showed a divergence between employment for men and women, with male unemployment falling 0.1 percentage points to 6.3 percent, while female joblessness rose 0.3 percentage points to 7 percent. Labour force participation for men improved to 74.8 percent from 74.4 percent in the June quarter, while women dropped out of the workforce, with the participation rate falling to 62.4 percent from 62.6 percent.

New Zealand's unemployment rate was the 12th lowest among developed nations, behind Germany's 6 percent, but ahead of the Czech Republic's 6.7 percent.

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