The latest unemployment figures look better than expected but appearances may be deceptive. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is up to 5.0%, lower than expected, but the unadjusted number is 5.6%. There is a seasonal adjustment unemployment usually climbs in the March quarter, then falls later in the year, whether that will happen this year is the big question.
In total the economy shed 54,000 jobs (24,000 seasonally adjusted) in the quarter.
39,000 people (25,000SA) gave up trying to find work and left the workforce entirely. They don’t count towards the unemployment number. So while the total number of working age people went up 11,000 (8,000SA), the workforce decreased by 28,000 (17,000SA). Unemployment – people looking for work who haven’t got it – went up 27,000 (7,000SA).
The recession is not being felt equally across the country.
-Taranaki, Southland and Nelson/Marlborough still have unemployment rates below 3% and steady of falling while there were big jumps in Northland, Auckland and Gisborne/Hawkes Bay to 9.0%, 6.5%, and 7.8% respectively.
-Pacific peoples unemployment jumped from 7.8% to 13.1%. Pakeha remained below 4% (3.2% to 3.8%.)
-Unemployment for 20-24 year olds rocketed from 7.3% to 12% while 25-29 year olds went from 4.6% to 4.9% suggesting that recent graduates are finding it tough but firms are holding on to those with some work experience.
The best number to look at is hours worked because it doesn’t get affected by labour force participation like the unemployment number. Actual hours worked dropped 4 million a week (5%) but with the seasonal adjustment the number is flat.
So are we out of the woods or is the true size of the problem being disguised by a statistical quirk? If things aren’t as bad as feared is it thanks to Labour’s full employment policies or National’s Job Summit? The answer will probably depend on your politics.
– the mathemagician