The regions with the best and worst credit scores revealed

An economist has credited actions taken by the Government and Reserve Bank last year with keeping Kiwis' credit scores high. 

The latest Centrix Credit Indicator Outlook, out Tuesday, shows the average credit score nationwide is 649 - above where it was pre-pandemic.

Economist Cameron Bagrie says New Zealand's low unemployment rate is behind the near-record score. 

"The critical element here for credit scores - whether people are paying the bills - is unemployment. Hat-tip here to the Reserve Bank, hat-tip to the Government - through their pretty aggressive wage subsidy, we've managed to keep unemployment low, faw lower than what was projected."

People with jobs are more likely to pay their bills on time, in other words. Unemployment was tipped to skyrocket as a result of the level 4 lockdown last year, perhaps even into double-digits for the first time since the early 1990s, but it topped out at 5.3 percent. 

It's since dropped to close to what economists consider 'full employment'. 

"At the moment unemployment is at 4.9 percent, so we're sort of in the zone," said Bagrie. "But when you start talking about the economy being at 'full employment' - which is a good thing, but there's there's glass half-empty side to that. There's still 200,000 people on the Jobseeker benefit.

"Full employment is not defined as 'everybody with a job'... it's defined as the maximum level of employment we can get without overheating the labour market, generating inflation. Central banks will have what's called a non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment - we think it's in that 4 percent sort of zone."

Beyond that, wages start to go up, generating demand; but increased demand drives up prices, generating inflation. 

Centrix's report says Kiwis' rising credit scores shows people are "looking to take advantage of the cheap money that is available to invest or spend", with interest rates low and fewer of them worried about job security. 

Centrix warns with the last borrowers still on the Government's mortgage deferral scheme about to come off, there's a chance more people could start missing payments soon. 

"We will be watching closely to see whether we start to see increasing debt stress and a higher frequency of missed payments in the coming weeks as credit demand is a leading indicator of economic confidence," said managing director Keith McLaughlin.

Cameron Bagrie.
Cameron Bagrie. Photo credit: The AM Show

In April last year, credit scores plunged to about 585. 

Credit scores at the moment are highest in Marlborough and Nelson (690 and 685 respectively) and lowest in the Gisborne region (609). 

The entire South Island (650-690), Auckland (646), Northland (641) and Wellington (667) have good scores, coloured green in Centrix's map; while the central North Island - including Coromandel, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Hawke's Bay and Taranaki - are orange, signifying middling scores (between 627 and 639). 

Credit scores across NZ.
Credit scores across NZ. Photo credit: Centrix.