Unemployment holds steady at 6.5 percent

Unemployment holds steady at 6.5 percent

Unemployment is holding steady, with both the labour force size and number of hours worked climbing in the last quarter.

Unemployment is holding steady, with both the labour force size and number of hours worked climbing in the last quarter.

Seasonally adjusted unemployment was unchanged at 154,000, or 6.5 percent, Statistics New Zealand said today. That was below the 6.6 percent forecast by economists surveyed by Reuters.

The Household Labour Force Survey results are based on a representative sample of 15,000 households throughout New Zealand.

While there was no change in the total unemployment rate, the male and female rates moved closer together. The amount of unemployed men increased, while unemployment decreased for women in the June quarter.

However, over the past year, unemployment has fallen by 3.7 percent – the largest annual percentage decrease since December 2007.

Although the quarterly change in employment was small (up 1,000), the annual number swelled by 43,000, which is approximately the population of Nelson. This was driven by increases in both full-time and part-time employment.

“Although key labour market indicators remain flat when compared with the March 2011 quarter, annual changes in the number of unemployed and employed show a continued strengthening of the New Zealand labour market,” industry and labour statistics manager Diane Ramsay said.

According to the labour cost index released this week, salary and wage rates were also up over the past year. Private sector pay increased 2 percent, outpacing public sector pay at 1.5 percent.

Another promising sign lay in a large rise in actual hours worked for the June 2011 quarter – 1.6 percent. Usual hours worked increased by 0.6 percent.

Growth in finance and insurance was particularly strong.

Unsurprisingly, outcomes were different in the Canterbury region compared with movements in the national estimates. Employment fell in Canterbury but rose nationally, and vice versa for unemployment.

ASB economist Jane Turner said the decline was only likely to be temporary, however, with employment picking up as businesses relocated and reopened. The construction industry would also benefit as the city's rebuild progressed.

 She said growth outside Canterbury was surprisingly robust.

"The strength of the recovery in underlying employment suggests the recent increase in business confidence is starting to translate into real activity."