6 Feb 2014

Firms hire more but wage growth muted

7:07 am on 6 February 2014

Firms are continuing to hire more people, pushing the unemployment rate down to its lowest level in 4½ years. But wage growth remains modest.

Both fulltime and part-time work rose, led by the rebuilding in Christchurch.

Official figures show the number of people out of work declined from 6.2 percent to 6 percent in the three months to December, or 147,000 people - the lowest level since June 2009.

Statistics New Zealand said employment rose by 24,000, or 1.1 percent to 2.297 million, led by Auckland and Christchurch firms seeking workers.

The fall in unemployment didn't match the pick up in jobs, due to more people searching for work, which economists put down to a combination of stronger growth, government policies to get more people in work, and rising immigration.

An expanding economy is not translating into hefty pay rises as yet and Statistics New Zealand says average pay increases are now at their lowest level in more than 13 years.

But analysts expect that will change over the rest of the year as economic activity strengthens further.