3 Feb 2016

Unemployment rate lowest since 2009

4:59 pm on 3 February 2016

The unemployment rate has fallen sharply to 5.3 percent in the three months ended December.

Employment and unemployment generic photo.

Photo: RNZ

The economy created about 21,000 jobs during the quarter compared with the previous quarter's 11,000 job loss, Statistics New Zealand figures released today show.

However, there was also a fall in the number of people looking for work, which also contributed to the lower jobless rate.

The jobless rate fell to its lowest level since 2009, with strong growth in the construction, retail and hospitality sectors.

Job growth was strong in the Auckland region as well as Wellington and Manawatu.

But the data also showed 14,000 people had stopped looking for work for various reasons, even though the size of the workforce had increased, driven by record immigration.

This led to a fall in the participation rate - the number either in work or looking for work - which Statistics New Zealand said also reflected people who had left the labour force, such as the retired.

But an economist said the fall in participation did not tally with growth in jobs and raised doubts about the reliability of the jobs data.

"The HLFS (household labour force survey) has long had questions over its accuracy given that there have often been cases where large 'surprises' such as today's outcome are thrown up. Those questions will linger today," ANZ senior economist Philip Borkin said.

Wages data, released at the same time, showed a rise of 0.4 percent for the quarter, and an annual rate easing to 1.6 percent, the lowest since 2010.

Mr Borkin said, putting aside doubts about some aspects of the data, the labour market looked to be in reasonable heart and so further cooled calls for lower interest rates.