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Key 'surprised' by high unemployment rate

Thursday 8 Nov 2012 6:07 p.m.

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By 3 News Political Editor Duncan Garner

New Zealand's unemployment rate has shot up to 7.3 percent, with another 13,000 people out of work in the past three months.

It's a 13-year high – and there's no sign of a quick turn around.

Dynamic Controls designs and makes controls for powered wheelchairs. It's cutting-edge stuff, but its workers have been told that times are so tough that up to 60 of them will soon be out of a of job.

They won’t be alone – 175,000 people are out of work across the country. That's the worst result since 1999, when National was last in office and led by Jenny Shipley.

National’s current leader says the figures have surprised him.

“I'm very surprised with the numbers I’ve seen this morning, goodness knows what the next one will look like,” says Mr Key.

Mr Key shouldn't be alarmed – the world has slowed, and New Zealand is feeling it. But how bad has it got?

Unemployment amongst Maori is up 2.3 percent to 15.1 percent, Pacific Island unemployment is at 15.6 percent, and 113,000 workers want more hours but can't get them.

Labour MP David Cunliffe says it’s easy to sum up the situation.

“One word: failure,” he says. “This Government has failed – it's failing our workers, it's failing our children, it's failing our economy.”

National's Maori MPs are red-faced.

“I think anybody would be embarrassed about 15 percent unemployment,” says National MP Tau Henare.

The unemployment news is a massive blow to National, who promised back in 2010 to deliver 170,000 new jobs over four years.

Today, Deputy Prime Minister Bill English couldn’t say how many jobs have actually been created.

“Well I couldn't give you that right now, we'll let you know in December,” says Mr English.

Mr Key says it's out of his hands.

“New Zealand is a small cork in a large ocean, and if international conditions remain weak it makes our job more difficult,” he says.

So 175,000 Kiwis are out of work – and if that continues to increase Mr Key may find the next election is much, much harder to win.

Economic issues like jobs and job security largely decide elections, and this should be a real warning to the Prime Minister - our economy is in trouble.

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