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Jobless rate falls to 6.9 per cent

Thursday 7 Feb 2013 11:38 a.m.

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New Zealand's unemployment rate fell from a 13-year high in the last three months of 2012 as people stopped looking for work and the participation rate shrank to its lowest level in almost nine years.

The unemployment rate fell 0.4 of a percentage point to 6.9 per cent in the September quarter, as the number of people leaving the workforce fell faster than the number of jobs available, according to Statistics New Zealand's household labour force survey.

Economists were picking a headline rate of 7.1 per cent in a Reuters survey.

The participation rate fell a record 1.2 percentage points to 67.2 per cent, the lowest level since September 2004, while employment shrank 1 per cent.

Labour's finance spokesman David Parker is using this number to attack the Government, saying its strategies are not working.

"Disappointed Kiwis are giving up on John Key’s brighter future. National’s hands-off policies are forcing Kiwis to opt out of looking for work or head to Australia," he says.

"National promised to rebalance the economy but all they’ve done is tilt the balance even further in favour of their well-off supporters."

Economists were expecting a participation rate of 68.5 per cent and quarterly jobs growth of 0.4 per cent.

The number of people not in the labour force climbed 3.8 per cent in the quarter.

"We're seeing fewer people working and looking for work, and more people outside the labour force," industry and labour statistics manager Diane Ramsay said in a statement.

"More younger people are solely in study and more older people are entering retirement."

The New Zealand dollar rose to 84.32 US cents from 84.20 immediately before the report was released.

Full-time employment grew 0.4 per cent to 1.71 million in the quarter, while the number of part-time jobs plunged six per cent to 486,000.

The annual decline in jobs was led by a 19 per cent plunge in self-employment, which has been falling from a peak in December 2011.

Otago had the lowest unemployment rate across the regions at 4.3 per cent, with Southland at 4.6 per cent and Canterbury at 4.9 per cent.

Northland had the highest rate at 9.5 per cent. Auckland's unemployment rate improved to 7.2 per cent, while Wellington's rose to 7.9 per cent.

In Canterbury, employment rose 5.2 percent. The increase in employment was entirely from males. Mr Parker says the Government cannot claim credit for this rise.

"The only part of the country with significant job growth is Canterbury, due to a tragedy and insurance inflows rather than any policy from the Government," he says.

Youth aged 15 to 24 not in employment, education or training, a target demographic for the government, rose to 14.2 per cent, the highest level since March 2011, though coming at the end of calendar year when programmes typically end.

3 News / NZN

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