National's Amy Adams blasts Government over 'slight drop' in employment

The Government has been blasted over a "slight drop" in the employment rate shown in Stats NZ's latest labour market figures. 

Stats NZ said the employment rate fell from 67.8 percent to 67.5 percent in the past three months, reflecting a "fall in the number of people employed". 

The employment rate reflects the number of people employed as a share of the working-age population of those aged 15 years and over. 

And while that dropped, the unemployment rate also dropped from 4.3 percent at the end of last year to 4.2 percent in the last three months. 

Amy Adams, National's finance spokesperson, said the "slight drop" in the employment rate was "driven by a fall in the number of people seeking work and not by jobs growth".

She said the most "logical explanation" for the drop in the number of jobs was that "businesses are no longer willing to take a risk and hire new staff because they are being whacked with more and more costs". 

The Government has been warned that its policies including boosting the minimum wage and scrapping 90-day trials for some companies could risk dragging the economy down. 

National's finance spokesperson Amy Adams.
National's finance spokesperson Amy Adams. Photo credit: File

ANZ's Business Outlook Survey for March showed the New Zealand economy was "quietly losing steam" and its most recent report for April said business confidence was "flat". 

Adams said under the current Government, "fewer businesses are willing to take on extra staff and more people are choosing to sit on the benefit instead of getting a job".

"The Government needs to make it easier for businesses to grow by reducing costs, regulations and taxes. And it needs to encourage Kiwis into work by making work more attractive than the benefit."

But Stats NZ warned of caution when "drawing comparisons with December 2018 quarter data and to focus on longer-term trends".

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern pointed to this in Parliament on Wednesday when National leader Simon Bridges said job growth had fallen by 4000 in the past three months. 

Ardern responded: "I notice that the member is very specifically drawn on a quarter-to-quarter comparison because what he doesn't want to say is that the unemployment rate as it's been announced today is at 4.2 percent, the second-lowest in 10 years."

She added: "What he doesn't want to say is that wages grew 4.3 percent over the year... and the number of employed people rose 38,200 from a year ago."

Ardern said Bridges "compared one quarter to the next because that was the only number that he felt comfortable raising" in Parliament. 

The unemployment rate for Māori also continues to track in the right direction falling to 8.6 percent from 9.6 percent which means 5100 more Māori are in paid employment.

Employment Minister Willie Jackson said the figures represent "real people, real whānau and real communities who are seeing a difference in their lives, something we should all celebrate". 

He said the figures shows "continued growth in jobs at a time when economists are suggesting we are at 'full employment'."