Govt spending slashing unemployment: English

Unemployment would have peaked at well over 7% without the Government's multibillion investment in big construction projects, Finance Minister Bill English says.

"I have no doubt that thousands more New Zealanders would be out of work without the Government's considerable infrastructure programme," Mr English said today in a speech to the Auckland Chamber of Commerce.

"And our unemployment rate would have got significantly worse than the 7% peak in late 2009."

The latest Household Labour Force Survey, released this month, showed unemployment at 6.8% in the December quarter.

Mr English said the Government was investing $7.5 billion over five years in public amenities such as schools, state houses, hospitals, prisons and ultra-fast broadband.

It had boosted spending on state highways to $1 billion a year and was investing more than ever on upgrading the electricity grid.

Mr English said that all up the Government was spending directly about $6 billion each year on improving infrastructure, and with it supporting thousands of jobs across the country.

"There are good reasons for this," he said.

"First, we need to unclog the country's economic arteries, after many years of under investment.

"Second, it was important to protect New Zealanders from the worst effects of the recession -- providing work for trades people and construction firms at a time of otherwise low demand."

He said that with unemployment well above 6%,  the Government was doing everything possible to make it easier for businesses to hire and retain staff.

"Unemployment will fall only when businesses - not the Government - have the confidence to invest, grow their operations and take on new staff."


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