2 Aug 2017

Unemployment rate falls to eight-year low

8:45 pm on 2 August 2017

The number of people out of work has fallen slightly to bring the rate of unemployment to its lowest level in more than eight years.

Unemployment has remained above 8 percent in provinces such as Northland, Hawke's Bay and Wairarapa.

Photo: RNZ

Official figures show the unemployment rate edged down to 4.8 percent in the three months to June, from 4.9 percent in the previous quarter.

This is the lowest rate since December 2008, after the start of the global financial crisis, when it was 4.4 percent.

The improvement was largely because of a fall in the number of unemployed women; 10,000 fewer women were classified as unemployed, which means actively looking for work.

The fall in the unemployment rate was despite record immigration continuing to swell the workforce at a faster rate than the number of jobs being created.

The number of jobs available fell by 4000, which was unexpected given surveys showing businesses planning to hire staff.

"The weak... employment growth follows two-quarters of modest economic growth, and raises a flag of caution," said ASB chief economist Nick Tuffley.

Expectations had been for unemployment of 4.8 percent but with about 15,000 jobs being added during the quarter.

But Mr Tuffley said other indicators released at the same time showed reasonable job growth and labour market activity.

He said the economy created more than 73,000 jobs over the past 12 months, just under half in the Auckland region, and there remained solid demand in building, hospitality and service industries.

Wage pressures remain subdued with the labour cost index rising 1.7 percent for the year. The public sector outpaced the private sector.

Council of Trade Unions president Richard Wagstaff said this shouldn't be seen as low unemployment, as he said New Zealand has been stuck in high unemployment for years.

He said people shouldn't accept high unemployment and low pay as normal.

"That kind of unemployment rate keeps wages low, and migration keeps wages low, but as well as all of that, the employment relations system keeps wages low, because there is no real system of bargaining. Most people just get what they are given. Most people don't get to negotiate in union in New Zealand because we have this system of the Employment Relations Act, which is heavily weighted in favour of employers and away from workers."

He said a decade ago the unemployment rate was at 3.3 percent.

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