23 Jan 2010

Dole rise 'not sign of fast unemployment growth'

8:54 am on 23 January 2010

The rise in the number of jobless in December is not necessarily a sign that unemployment is rising at a fast pace, according to the BNZ's chief economist.

The latest figures show the number of people collecting the unemployment benefit rose 13% in a month, from 58,000 in November to 66,000 in December.

Economist Tony Alexander says monthly figures have to be treated with caution because they often move round a lot, especially in December.

Other indicators show that there will be some improvement this year, though not a strong upturn, he says.

However, he still expects the unemployment rate to move from 6.5% in the September quarter to about 7% this year.

Minister confident on jobs

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says that despite the growing number of jobless, she expects unemployment to fall in the next six months.

Ms Bennett says the increase was expected, given the number of school-leavers and tertiary students who start looking for work in December, and is consistent with previous years.

In the same period, she points out, nearly 4000 people came off the benefit - twice as many as in the same period a year before. That shows that the labour market is improving, she says.

Govt has failed its promises - Goff

Labour leader Phil Goff says, however, that the Government has failed to deliver on the promises it made at last year's job summit.

Australia's unemployment rate has traditionally been higher than New Zealand's, he says, but for the first time in more than a decade it's the other way round.

Mr Goff says that's because Australia has a plan to deal with unemployment, while New Zealand has not.

Ms Bennett admits that while the economic outlook is continuing to improve, unemployment has not yet peaked. The Government remains committed to supporting people into work, she says.

A spokesperson for the Rotorua Peoples Union, Paul Blair, says the Government needs to take a structured approach to creating jobs.