Unemployment dropped to 4.9 percent in the December 2020 quarter, down from 5.3 percent in the September 2020 quarter, Stats NZ said on Wednesday.
Last quarter's unemployment rate of 5.3 percent followed the largest increase observed in a single quarter since the series began in 1986.
Before the September 2020 quarter, the unemployment rate had been trending downwards from a peak rate of 6.7 percent in the September 2012 quarter.
The December 2020 quarter's rate of 4.9 percent is a return to rates observed over three years ago, when the unemployment rate was also 4.9 percent in the March 2017 quarter.
"The effects of COVID-19 on the labour market were apparent in the September quarter, with a sharp increase in unemployment. Despite the December quarter's drop, unemployment is still higher than it has been in a few years. This time last year, the unemployment rate was at 4.1 percent," work, wealth and wellbeing senior manager Becky Collett says.
Unemployment in stats
The unemployment rate (not seasonally adjusted) in the December 2020 quarter breaks down like this:
- 3.7 percent for European (no statistically significant change since the December 2019 quarter)
- 9.0 percent for Māori (no statistically significant change since the December 2019 quarter)
- 9.6 percent for Pacific people, up from 7.2 percent in the December 2019 quarter
- 5.2 percent for Asian, up from 3.4 percent in the December 2019 quarter
- 10.1 percent for 15–29-year-olds (up from 8.4 percent in the December 2019 quarter)
- 3.3 percent for 30–54-year-olds (up from 2.6 percent in the December 2019 quarter)
- 2.5 percent for 55 and over (no statistically significant change since the December 2019 quarter)
- For men, the unemployment rate was 4.5 percent, down from 4.8 percent last quarter
- For women, the unemployment rate was 5.4 percent, down from 5.8 percent
Hourly earnings increase
Meanwhile, growth in average earnings in the December 2020 quarter was strong despite slowing wage inflation.
"In the year to the December 2020 quarter, average ordinary-time hourly earnings in the quarterly employment survey (QES) increased 4.2 percent to $34.14. Average ordinary-time weekly earnings increased to $1,289, up 3.6 percent annually, as average weekly hours fell across the year," Stats NZ says.
"The rise in average hourly earnings reflected falls in the number of filled jobs and hours paid in lower-paid industries like administration and support services, while jobs and hours in higher-paid industries remained relatively stable."