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Seasonally unadjusted unemployment rose in both Otago and Southland in the three months ended September, but the seasonal nature of the figures makes interpretation difficult.
Otago-Southland Employers Association chief executive John Scandrett said when he looked closely at the latest Statistics NZ figures, they were not as negative as he first thought.
"Today, I've spoken with a prominent city manufacturing concern which has experienced recent demand slippage from Australian customers. While they have been forced to adjust temporary employee numbers downward, they are anticipating an early new year ordering lift and they are confident this will lead to rehiring."
Another local manufacturer and exporter had increased staff numbers on a gradual but consistent basis throughout the year and expected that trend to continue, Mr Scandrett said.
A "respected" Dunedin-based construction and decorating firm principal said he had a strong order book but was finding it difficult to find appropriately experienced staff.
"But the overall message seems to be that, while there is nervousness and uncertainty around many local labour market elements, some employers - especially those in niche markets - were doing very well and their employee numbers were stable," Mr Scandrett said.
Statistics NZ figures showed the Otago unemployment rate rose from 4.6% in June to 5% in September and the Southland rate rose from 4.3% in June to 5.3% in September.
A closer look at the figures shows the number of people employed in Otago fell from 121,300 in June to 113,800 in September, while the number of unemployed rose from 5900 to 6000. But the total labour force, as measured by Statistics NZ, fell to 119,800 in September from 127,200 in June - a fall of 7400.
In Southland the number of people in work increased to 58,200 in September from 57,100 and at the same time, the number of unemployed grew to 3300 from 2600. Southland's total labour force increased to 61,500 in September from 59,600 in June.
Otago's working-age population fell in September to 176,900 from 184,100 in June. In Southland, the working-age population increased 2000 in September to 83,000.
Mr Scandrett said the "breath-taking reality" of yesterday's figures were that in parts of the country, unemployment levels were sitting at 8%-10%. On a comparative basis, Otago at 5% and Southland at 5.3% looked quite positive.
Local levels of unemployment painted a picture of ongoing labour hardship across tourism, retail and selected construction activities and as regional manufacturing was generally sitting close to break-even, it was hard to find anything concrete pointing towards an improvement in employment, he said.
• Otago: 5% in September, 4.6% in June.
• Southland: 5.3% in September, 4.3% in June.