24 Jun 2009

Apprentice numbers continuing to rise, says PM

6:22 pm on 24 June 2009

Prime Minister John Key says the number of apprentices is continuing to rise, despite the recession putting more people out of work.

During Question Time in Parliament on Wednesday, Mr Key announced the apprenticeship figures a day early as he countered continuing criticism from the Labour Party about his record on saving jobs.

Labour again made a concerted attack on the National-led Government's record, claiming the Jobs Summit in February and the Budget in May has failed to slow the rise in unemployment.

But Mr Key rejected the criticism and, particularly, Labour leader Phil Goff's claim that apprentices are losing their jobs.

Mr Key says though some apprentices have lost jobs, the numbers in industry training rose by 4% in the first three months of this year.

He says figures to be released by the Tertiary Education Commission on Thursday will show there are now 133,000 industry training graduates.

Key 'comfortable' with strategy

Mr Key says he is comfortable with the Government's economic strategy and it is inevitable unemployment will rise. However, infrastructure spending and other initiatives are helping to create thousands of jobs.

The Prime Minister says the 2009 Budget led to New Zealand being taken off negative watch by credit rating agency Standard & Poor's.

He told Morning Report a Labour Budget would have led to a credit downgrade and resulted in increased interest rates and "tens of thousands of job losses" because companies could not borrow money.

Mr Key says New Zealand's business and consumer confidence levels "are exceptionally high" in comparison to other countries.

Mr Goff says 16,000 people have become unemployed since the Job Summit on 27 February, proving it was a "talk fest" rather than a "do fest".

He told Morning Report only one of the initiatives presented at the Job Summit has created jobs so far.

Mr Goff acknowledged the international economic situation is difficult, but thinks the Government should be doing more.

However, Mr Key says New Zealand still has one of the lowest levels of unemployment in the world.