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Job market jitters continue

Employment and unemployment are up, pointing to continued weakness in the economic recovery.

First, the good news.

The headline unemployment figure in today's household labour force survey falls from the spike of 7.3% of the workforce, in the three months to September 2012, to 6.9% for the final three months of the year.

That 7.3% spike was dubbed a "horror number" at the time by one economist: no-one saw it coming and several suggested it might be a rogue figure, rising as it did from 6.8%.

Today's figures tip the data back towards the 6.4%-6.9% range, where unemployment has hovered, if somewhat erratically, since the recession.

That is pretty much the end of the good news.

Unemployment is still up 0.5% on where it was a year ago, or up 10,000 to 163,000 people.

The labour force participation rate fell 1.2%, the largest quarterly fall since the survey began in 1986, and the third quarterly fall in a row.

By industry, the quarterly biggest fall was a 10,400 fall in agriculture, forestry and fishing and a 6900 falls in education and training services. The main rise was construction, up 6500.

Actual hours worked were flat for the quarter, while employment rate fell 0.8%, the third consecutive quarterly fall, after a long period when the country's employment rate was one of the highest among developed countries.

The employment rate is now at its lowest level in 10 years, Statisitcs New Zealand says.

More by Rob Hosking

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National is failing. Do you need any more evidence?