New Zealand unemployment rate jumps unexpectedly

  • 01/02/2017
Job seeking

A large number of people entering New Zealand's workforce has pushed the unemployment rate back above 5 percent.

The unemployment rate rose to 5.2 percent in the three months ended December 31 from a revised 4.9 percent in the September quarter, Statistics New Zealand said.

Economists had been expecting the unemployment rate to ease back to 4.8 percent.

The New Zealand dollar fell to 73.08 US cents after the release from 73.38 cents immediately before it.

Employment grew 0.8 percent in the quarter to 2.51 million while the working-age population grew 0.5 percent to 3.76 million.

The participation rate was an all-time high of 70.5 percent. While recent changes to methodology means comparisons with earlier periods aren't easy to make, the working-age population has been bolstered by record migration.

"The December quarter saw a large number of people enter the labour force," labour and income statistics manager Mark Gordon said.

"But while the number of people in employment has risen, so has the number of unemployed people."

According to Statistics New Zealand total annual wage inflation, which includes both the public sector and the private sector, was 1.6 percent higher on the year in the December quarter. Annual wage inflation has been 1.5 percent to 1.6 percent for the last seven quarters, it said.

The recently added underutilisation rate, which seeks to measure the potential labour supply, was at 12.8 percent up from 12.2 percent in September. The increase came from more people being unemployed and more people actively seeking work but not currently being available to work.

The quarterly employment survey, also released Wednesday, showed ordinary time private sector hours fell 0.3 percent in the quarter to $27.74 for a 1.1 percent annual gain. Ordinary time public sector wages rose 0.5 percent to $37.63 and were up 3.0 percent on the year.