Long-term joblessness grows in South

The number of people facing more than six months without a job in the South has more than doubled since 2009.

The Household Labour Force Survey for the quarter ended March 2014 showed about 2400 people were classified as long-term unemployed (unemployed for six months or longer) in Otago and Southland.

The survey showed the same number of long-term unemployed as at the March quarter last year, but that number was 60% higher than the 1500 people recorded on the same date in 2010 and more than double the fewer than 1000 long-term unemployed in 2009.

About 41,200 people throughout New Zealand had been unemployed for six months or longer according to the latest survey - 24% up on the about 33,200 unemployed for six months or longer at March 2010.

Dunedin North MP David Clark said the growth in long-term unemployment in the South showed the Government was not investing in the regions.

''I find it extremely concerning. It shows that the Government isn't interested or engaged in the challenges facing Dunedin and Otago,'' he said.

''We need the economy to be working for all New Zealanders.''

Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Steven Joyce said the rise in long-term unemployment was because of the global financial crisis in 2007-08.

Otago and Southland had relatively low unemployment rates compared with the rest of New Zealand and the number of long-term unemployed would decrease as the economy strengthened, he said.

Anglican Family Care Centre director Nicola Taylor said the situation in Dunedin had worsened in the past five years and many families faced long periods of uncertainty about their income.

''We count on our incomes and how many months could you survive if that was cut suddenly?'' Mrs Taylor said.

''Suddenly losing a job is very, very stressful.''

That stress led to increases in other social ills, including family violence, she said.

''It can be very grim if there are not work opportunities out there to get yourself out of that.''

Dr Clark said the numbers were a ''sign that the economy isn't really working for the regions''.

''It's not working in the interests of all people.

''The median wages have been stubbornly low despite some gains in wages for those in the top 10%.''

Mr Joyce said although Dr Clark ''may like to blame the National Government for the global financial crisis'', ''most New Zealanders are more astute than that''.

The Government was investing in Otago and Southland with ''significantly increased funding for the University of Otago, the Primary Growth Partnership, cycle trails, major events like the Wanaka Triathlon, the Dunedin bioenergy cluster, and business R and D funding through Callaghan Innovation'', he said.

''In the past year, 84,000 more jobs were created across New Zealand, the largest job growth rate in a decade,'' Mr Joyce said.

The numbers
Number of people who have been unemployed for six months or longer in Otago and Southland. -
• March 2009: Fewer than 1000*
• March 2010: 1500
• March 2011: 1900
• March 2012: 2300
• March 2013: 2400
• March 2014: 2400

*Statistics New Zealand does not release figures lower than 1000.

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