Concerns raised over falling New Zealand unemployment figures – Xinhua

WELLINGTON, Nov. 2 — New Zealand’s unemployment rate fell below 5 percent for the first time since 2008 in the September quarter, but critics raised concerns over the reliability of the figures.

The unemployment rate in the quarter to the end of September was 4.9 percent, down from 5 percent in the previous quarter, the government’s Statistics New Zealand agency said Wednesday.

It was the lowest unemployment rate since the December 2008 quarter, with 3,000 fewer people unemployed than in the June quarter and 10,000 fewer over the year.

“The number of people employed in New Zealand was up 35,000, or 1.4 percent, in the September 2016 quarter,” labor and income statistics manager Mark Gordon said in a statement.

The working-age population increased by 24,000 people, or 0.7 percent, over the quarter, to reach almost 3.74 million.

“The increase in the number of people employed again exceeded population growth over the latest quarter. This resulted in the employment rate increasing 0.5 percentage points, so currently 66.7 percent of the working-age population is in some form of employment,” Gordon said.

Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce welcomed the drop in the unemployment rate.

“For the first time Statistics New Zealand has recorded data on employment relationships which shows that 90 percent of people in paid employment are in permanent jobs. This confirms the vast majority of New Zealanders are in stable long-term employment,” Joyce said in a statement.

“Average weekly wages are up 1.9 percent in the past year, compared with inflation of 0.2 percent.”

However, an economic note from the ASB Bank said the data still needed to be treated with caution given the recent adjustments to the way Statistics New Zealand collected it.

It also warned “overall wage growth is not fast enough to force an inflation rethink” and the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) would downplay the apparent strength of the employment figures given concerns over their reliability.

The ASB continued to expect the RBNZ to cut the official cash rate by 25 basis points next week to 1.75 percent.

The Council of Trade Unions (CTU) said that while a small reduction in unemployment was welcome, it was much too slow.

“Treasury says the rate should be 4 percent, which equates to 105,000 people unemployed, or 23,000 more people at work. It has been as good as 3.3 percent in December 2007, which would mean 41,000 more people at work,” CTU economist Bill Rosenberg said in a statement.

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