7 May 2013

Wages growing at a slower pace

7:07 pm on 7 May 2013

Wage growth is continuing to slow, despite the gradual improvement in the economy.

Statistics New Zealand's Labour Cost Index shows that private sector wages - the Reserve Bank's preferred measure of wage cost inflation - rose 0.4% in the first three months of the year. Public sector pay increases rose by the same amount.

On an annual basis, wage and salary increases rose 1.7% in the year to March, compared with 2% in the previous March year.

Statistics New Zealand says the median increase for those who received a pay increase stood at 2.4% - the lowest level in more than a decade.

Some analysts say that is due to high unemployment and the patchy nature of the recovery. However, wage increases are outstripping inflation, meaning people's purchasing power is going further.

And the economy is generating more fulltime and part-time jobs, particularly in earthquake-hit Canterbury.

ANZ Bank senior economist Mark Smith says the labour market has taken on a two-speed nature, with the rebuilding of Canterbury driving higher wages in the construction sector, but outside Canterbury wage and job growth remains modest.

The number of filled jobs rose 0.4% led by the need for workers to rebuild Christchurch.

The modest wage increases will not trouble the Reserve Bank, which is expected to leave interest rates on hold until early 2014.

The Household Labour Force Survey will be published on Thursday, and most economists are picking the unemployment rate to have reduced to 6.8% in the three months to March, compared with 6.9% in the December quarter.