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Jobless shock as rate hits 13-year high

Unexpected figures take unemployment rate to the highest level since June 1999. | Kiwi dollar takes a tumble.

Paul McBeth
Thu, 08 Nov 2012

New Zealand's unemployment rate unexpectedly rose to a 13-year high as the pool of jobs shrank for a second straight quarter, with a flat labour market in Auckland and fewer full-time staff.

The kiwi dollar tumbled about half a US cent.

The jobless rate rose half a percentage point to 7.3% in the September quarter, the highest level since June 1999, according to Statistics New Zealand's household labour force survey. Economists surveyed by Reuters were picking a 0.1 percentage point fall to 6.7%.

The number of people employed fell 0.4% to 2.22 million in its second quarterly decline, while the participation rate was unchanged at 68.4%.

"The unemployment rate has stayed between 6.4% and 6.8% over the past two years, and has now risen for the third quarter in a row," industry and labour statistics manager Diane Ramsay says in a statement.

The New Zealand dollar dropped to 81.93 US cents after the figures were released, from 82.56 cents immediately before.

New Zealand's labour market has been struggling to recover from the nation's deepest recession in two decades, with employers more keen on taking on part-timers and casual staff than hiring permanent full-timers.

Just today, Dynamic Solutions of Christchurch said it will shed 40-60 jobs as it winds down its contract manufacturing business.

Auckland's unemployment rate rose 1.3% points to 8.6%, with the number of people employed in the country's biggest city at 691,200, the fewest since June last year.

Full-time employment shrank 0.8% to 1.7 million, while part-timers rose 1.4% to 519,000.

The number of jobless people, which includes those who might not be actively seeking work, rose to 294,900 from 271,200, while underemployment, which counts people who are part-time but want to work more hours, was up to 113,300 from 109,500.

Workers in professional, scientific, technical, administrative and support services recorded the biggest decline in jobs, falling to 249,400 from 259,300 in the June quarter, while manufacturing shed 6100 jobs to 240,400. The number of people working in construction fell to 166,600 from 171,300.

Total hours worked shrank 0.8% to a seasonally adjusted 73.18 million and were down 2% from a year earlier.

Youths aged 15 to 24 not in employment, education or training (NEET), a target demographic for the government, rose to 13.4% from 13.1% in the June quarter.

Canterbury's labour market continued to improve, with the unemployment rate down 5.2%, from 6.5% in the June quarter. Waikato and the Tasman, Nelson, Marlborough, West Coast regions were the only other areas to show a lower jobless rate.

Northland recorded the highest unemployment rate at 10%.

Today's figures come after the quarterly employment survey showed total filled jobs rose 0.3% to a seasonally adjusted 1.715 million, bolstered by a pick-up in part-time workers and a decline in full-time equivalents to 1.35 million.

Paul McBeth
Thu, 08 Nov 2012
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Jobless shock as rate hits 13-year high