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BUSINESSDESK: Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce has sought to deflect an unexpected jump in unemployment numbers to argue the case for economic growth in areas attracting strong public opposition.
Mr Joyce listed the intensification of agriculture and aquaculture, greater foreign investment, expanding oil and gas exploration and a new Auckland convention as examples of areas where it was "vital we put out the welcome mat to business".
"Those that oppose some or all of these things need to understand you can’t have more jobs without taking up these opportunities," he said, amid a flurry Opposition party criticism that the 6.8% unemployment rate recorded in the three months to June showed the government's failure of economic management.
A fall had been expected to 6.5%, after a 6.7% rate recorded in the March quarter. The labour force participation rate also fell in the June quarter, although it remains historically high at 68.4%.
Mr Joyce also said employment rose by 15,000 in the quarter and unemployment fell, once Canterbury was excluded from the figures, showing the ongoing national impact of the Christchurch earthquakes, where the long-awaited rebuild has yet to start in earnest.
His call comes as Cabinet papers released this week show he has been given broad responsibility for all environment, climate change, energy, conservation, local government and primary industries policy.
The Cabinet decision from early March shows he and Bill English have been bringing together six "informal groups of ministers" in the six areas of focus for what the government's Economic Growth Agenda, four of which are Mr Joyce's responsibility.
He leads the innovation, skilled workplaces, resources, and export markets portfolios, while Mr English oversees capital markets and infrastructure.
Mr Joyce also lauded the creation of up to 400 jobs at a "delivery centre" to be developed jointly by global computing firm IBM and Unitec, an Auckland-based technology training campus.
The centre will create opportunities for students and graduates to gain work in the latest of more than 50 such centres operating worldwide, and is based on a similar collaboration in the Victorian city of Ballarat.
The work involves business process and information technology services across business operations, including customer relationship management and remote support.