Unemployment falls to lowest rate in 11 years, wages rise 4.4 per cent

Anna Whyte
Source: 1News

Unemployment has fallen to its lowest rate in 11 years.

The latest Stats NZ employment figures showed unemployment fell to 3.9 per cent in the June 2019 quarter from 4.2 per cent in the March 2019 quarter. 

It comes despite the Reserve Bank's forecast it would rise slightly from March. 

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said they "cannot get complacent in the face of slowing global economic growth, and these indicators will move around a bit".

"But, in New Zealand, we are running a surplus, have decade-low unemployment, and rising wages, our growth rates are higher than the countries we compare ourselves to, like Australia, the UK, the EU, Canada and the US."

The number of unemployed peopled fell 7000, with 4000 of those men. Overall, the total number of unemployed people was 109,000. 

Sean Broughton of Stats NZ said the unemployment rate had been tracking down since late 2012, "towards levels seen before the global financial crisis in 2008". 

The current rate of 3.9 per cent is the lowest since June 2008, when it sat at 3.8 per cent. 

Māori unemployment fell from 9.4 per cent last year to 7.7 per cent. It is the lowest since the June 2008 quarter. 

The employment rate rose from 67.5 per cent in the March 2019 quarter, to 67.7 per cent. The annual number of people employed rose by 44,100, with 27,100 more women and 17,100 more men employed. 

The average wage increased to $32.37 an hour, growing 4.4 per cent. Stats NZ put the rise down to collective agreements, such as that for nurses, and the minimum wage rise on April 1 to $17.70. 

It comes amid low economic outlook , according to the latest 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton Poll, with 41 per cent believing the economy would be worse over the next 12 months, 27 per cent believing it would remain the same and 32 per cent thought it would be better. 

Sectors such as manufacturing were also reportedly struggling, according to analysts. 

Earlier this month, the  BNZ - BusinessNZ Performance of Manufacturing Index  found the manufacturing sector had picked up slightly in June - but it was still the fourth consecutive monthly result below the longterm average. 

BNZ Senior Economist Craig Ebert said the recent employment statistics of manufacturing yielded results that were "spookily Great Financial Crisis-like". 

However, he said hiring expectations rebounded to an encouragingly positive level.

The latest  NZIER Quarterly Survey of Business Opinion  also found business confidence fell to the lowest level since March 2009. However, "we might have slower growth, but the bills are being paid a little bit quicker", economist Cameron Bagrie said recently on TVNZ1's Q+A.