Today the Household Labour Force Survey is released. The method used to calculate the headline unemployment figure has changed since the previous release. This caused some discussion on Twitter yesterday, and Grant Robertson posted the following on Facebook:
Tomorrow the latest Household Labour Force Survey is released. These are the official statistics used to track, among other things, the level of unemployment. This will be the first survey undertaken since a change in how someone is defined as being unemployed. To be considered unemployed you need not only to be out of work, but also ‘actively seeking work’. Fair enough. But what is considered actively seeking work has changed. Looking on the internet on a website such as Seek or Trade Me is now considered “passive” rather than “active” and therefore is not sufficient for the person to be included as being unemployed. The result when this new criteria was applied to the last survey’s results was that unemployment magically went down from 5.7% to 5.2%.
This change in measurement just does not fit with the modern world and how people go about looking for work.
I accept the Chief Statistician’s assurance there was no political interference in the decision to make this change. What I know is that we have a National government that regularly misuses and misrepresents statistics and mark my words they will do it with this change particularly closer to the election.
The sad reality is that while the change in measurement might elicit a lower number or percentage it will not mean one fewer person is unemployed. We need a more active government partnering with communities to create decent meaningful work right across NZ, not just celebrating a statistical change.