10 Mar 2021

Figures show more people getting off unemployment benefit

6:49 am on 10 March 2021

For the first time since the start of the pandemic, the number of people moving off the main unemployment benefit into work is higher than the number of people going on to the benefit, according to data from the Ministry of Social Development.

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Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Figures for the last week of February show 3003 people went on to the Jobseeker Support, whereas 3120 people cancelled their benefit because they had found a job.

The data also showed that the number of people cancelling their benefit because they had obtained work has been trending up since the start of the year.

Infometrics senior economist Brad Olsen said while it was just one week of data, it was a milestone worth marking.

"We are seeing that we are getting Kiwis back into work, that has been a key focus as we have moved through this pandemic," he said.

"It is hopefully reflective of that continuing trend of getting people into employment. We've seen in recent weeks that the number of people getting into work and off the benefit has been relatively strong and there is a hope that will continue."

Olsen said it showed some sectors of the labour market were racing ahead - despite the dire economic forecasts in the early stage of the pandemic.

"The likes of the healthcare sector, construction and even the public sector itself are all hiring in a strong way," he said.

Seek NZ general manager Janet Faulding said its job ad data showed the big sectors hiring at the moment were information, communications and technology; manufacturing, transport and logistics; and trades and services.

It also showed an increased demand for workers in the retail and consumer product sector.

Job ad figures for February were down slightly - 0.3 percent - compared with January, while compared with February 2020 the drop was 2 percent.

That was the lowest year-on-year difference Seek had seen in the last 12 months, Faulding said.

Despite that, Faulding said they were continuing to see strong demand from hirers.

Olsen said tourism-based industries were still in a difficult position - some were not hiring and some were still letting staff go.

That meant there were still plenty of people doing it tough and needing support from the government.

"We have seen throughout this pandemic that Māori, Pasifika, young people and women have been hardest hit. We need to renew our efforts to get those people upskilled, reskilled and redeployed into the labour market."

Since March last year, the total number of people on the jobseeker benefit has jumped by 63,000.

But Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni said those numbers were beginning to decline.

"It is heartening, but obviously we don't want to see too much into it at this stage."

The number of people coming off the benefit and going into work showed there were still jobs out there, Sepuloni said.

There had also been significant government investment in boosting employment services through MSD, as well as support for upskilling and training.

"This was very deliberate, we needed it during this time and I think all of that is helping," Sepuloni said.

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