10 Jul 2024

Record numbers leaving New Zealand, with more departing in May than arriving - StatsNZ

6:49 pm on 10 July 2024
Weather delays at Auckland Airport

Stats NZ noted a record 85,600 New Zealand citizens left the country during the year, with China, United Kingdom, and Australia the top destinations. (file image) Photo: RNZ / Samuel Robinson

The mass exodus of New Zealanders is likely to continue until interest rates drop, a recruiter says.

Stats NZ data showed a net migration gain for the year ended May of 82,800, the lowest annual gain since March last year.

Westpac senior economist Michael Gordon said the numbers were prone to revisions and had to be treated with caution, but all the same the trend was clear.

"The slowdown in net migration is being driven by both sides. Arrivals remain at historically high levels, but they are down from the peak seen early last year.

"Meanwhile, departures of New Zealanders in particular have been trending higher, and are above pre-Covid levels."

Nearly 143,000 non-New Zealand citizens arrived in the 12 months ended May, with 60,100 departures.

Stats NZ noted a record 85,600 New Zealand citizens left the country during the year, with China, United Kingdom, and Australia the top destinations.

"This likely reflects a combination of delayed travel plans and the relatively robust jobs market in Australia compared to the slowdown in New Zealand," Gordon said.

For the month of May, there was an estimated actual net loss of 2000, the first since June 2022, although when seasonally adjusted that turned into 1400 gain.

Auckland-based recruitment agency Customise Talent Partners looks at employment opportunities across a range of sectors, including sales, marketing, finance and procurement.

Managing director Michael Viner told Checkpoint their agency had seen an improvement on the first quarter, but it was clear things were "still a little bit choppy out there", and he believed that would continue until interest rates dropped.

"I think things have settled down in terms of mass redundancies ... I think if you're saving a company money or you're making a company money then you're in demand."

The latest migration statistics were "quite phenomenal", Viner said.

"I think most of the time when we talk about brain drains we talk about a lot of sort of the younger generation, and I think in the last couple of months it's families and experienced executives leaving.

"A number of my friends are moving over [to Australia], some of them without roles to go to ... I think people are just taking the plunge."

There could be several factors behind that decision, including redundancy and lack of long-term opportunities in their industries.

"Unemployment's a lot lower over there, the economy seems to be going a lot better, probably a lot more opportunities. We're also seeing some of the big corporations centralising debt, New Zealand operations over to Australia as well. So it's all causing a bit of a push and I think it's a bit of a trend as well."

Arrivals from India, the Philippines, and China remained the largest source of migrants.

ASB chief economist Nick Tuffley said the slowdown would help the Reserve Bank's concerns strong population growth would boost economic activity and inflation pressures.

"The migration flows will keep boosting the pool of available workers in the short term, while employment growth is drying up, reinforcing that labour market slack will increase."

Annual migrations net gains peaked at a record 136,600 in October last year.

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