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Unemployment falls to 4.2%

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 4.2 per cent in the March 2019 quarter, down from 4.3 per cent in the December 2018 quarter, says Stats NZ.
Posted on 01 May, 2019
Unemployment falls to 4.2%

“The unemployment rate has been mostly trending down since the global financial crisis in 2008,” says labour market and household statistics senior manager Jason Attewell.

“The September 2018 quarter unemployment rate of 4.0 per cent was the lowest in a decade.” 

The number of people unemployed declined at a faster rate than the number of people in the labour force. This resulted in the unemployment rate falling close to its 10-year low. 

The unemployment rate for men was 3.9 per cent in the March 2019 quarter, down from 4.4 per cent last quarter. For women, it was 4.5 per cent, up from 4.2 per cent.

The total number of unemployed people in the March 2019 quarter was 116,000. This reflected 7,000 fewer unemployed men and 3,000 more unemployed women.

The underutilisation rate was 11.3 per cent in the March 2019 quarter. This is the lowest underutilisation rate since the December 2008 quarter, when it was also 11.3 per cent. Underutilisation provides a broader gauge of untapped capacity in New Zealand’s labour market.

In the year to the March 2019 quarter, the number of people underutilised decreased 14,000, to 324,000. There were 8,000 fewer underutilised women and 6,000 fewer underutilised men.

Stats NZ adjusted some December 2018 quarter data, but did not adjust the underutilisation data series. Users are advised to be cautious when drawing comparisons with December 2018 quarter data and to focus on longer-term trends.

Employment rate falls

The employment rate, which reflects the number of people employed as a share of the working-age population (people aged 15 years and older), fell to 67.5 per cent in the March 2019 quarter, from 67.8 per cent last quarter.

The fall in the employment rate reflected a fall in the number of people employed and a rise in the working-age population.

The employment rate for men fell to 72.3 per cent, down from 72.9 per cent last quarter. For women, it was 62.8 per cent, down from 63.0 per cent.

“Generally, employment growth tends to lag broader economic growth by about three months,” says Attewell.

“New Zealand has seen a softening of economic growth as measured by gross domestic product over the last six months, and we now are seeing that softening come through the employment rate.”

The number of employed people increased 38,200 or 1.5 per cent (unadjusted) in the year to the March 2019 quarter.

Over the same period, filled jobs, as measured by the quarterly employment survey (QES), increased 1.1 per cent (unadjusted) – 22,100 more jobs. Of this increase, 18,700 jobs were held by women and 3,400 by men.

Differences between filled jobs in the QES and employment numbers in the household labour force survey (HLFS) can largely be explained by differences in survey coverage.

The QES excludes some industries (including agriculture), and people who are self-employed without employees (to better fit international standards). Conversely, the HLFS only includes usually resident New Zealanders, so can exclude some temporary seasonal labourers.