Unemployment rate stable, wage inflation increases

New Zealand's record low unemployment rate remains stable, but thousands more workers took sick leave in the past few months due to the Omicron outbreak.

Builder at construction site (file picture).

Statistics NZ says in the March 2022 quarter the unemployment rate sat at 3.2%.

That means 94,000 people are unemployed, a 29% decrease on the same time last year.

As employers struggle to find and retain workers, wages increased by 3%.

Wage inflation is the highest in more than more than a decade. The average hourly rate is now $36.18.

Business prices delivery manager Bryan Downes said: “Wage increases were observed for many more jobs over the past year than we saw in the year previous”.

People working in manufacturing, healthcare and social assistance, professional, scientific, technical and support services may have noticed the biggest pay rises.

It still doesn’t match inflation, which sits at 6.9%.

And Covid is having another impact – on sick leave.

The number of people who were away for a full week or more in the March quarter was up a whopping 67% compared to the same time last year.

That saw a two-third increase in the last few months alone as Omicron cases soared.

“Sickness, illness or injury is the main reason for being away from work for a full week has tended to remain fairly consistent, and in the March 2022 quarter we’ve seen it increase by around two thirds annually as Omicron cases began to increase in the community," work and wellbeing statistics manager Becky Collett said.

The Māori unemployment rate remains stubbornly higher than the general population – 6.3%. The rate for Pacific peoples, while also decreasing, sits at 6.7%.

The number of young people not in education, employment or training is also much higher than the average rate, at 11.5%, up from 10.9% last quarter.

And the underutilisation figure – that’s the rate that measures people who would like to work more hours is up slightly too, to 9.3%.