National’s economic credibility was shot to pieces last week when Fitch and Standard & Poor’s gave them ‘not achieved’ marks. Less than a quarter of the OECD has been downgraded. New Zealand is one of them. All is not sunny in this brigther future.
But the Nats won’t admit there’s a problem. When the statistics are laid in front of them, they say they’re wrong. In the Nats’ war with reality, we’re the victims.
Take for example, a relatively simple question: how many people have become unemployed under National?
In February last year, the Household Labourforce Survey showed that the number of unemployed had risen by 7,000 in the quarter and 60,000 since National came to office. Key responded that we should ignore the HLFS because it is ‘just a survey‘ and “notoriously volatile“. He then promised that 2011 would be much better because unemployment is a “lagging indicator” (you’re not really out of work, Mack, you’re just a lagging indicator).
So, ignore the HLFS.
What else tells us about job losses? What about the National Employment Indicator?
Hon Phil Goff: When he also said yesterday: “Unemployment is starting to fall—not too bad.” had he read the latest National Employment Indicator for July, which shows that nearly 5,000 jobs were lost in New Zealand in that month alone?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No. Can I tell the member, because I will assume he does not know this and that is why he is giving the wrong information, that the National Employment Indicator is not a full indicator of all jobs in the economy.
Hon Phil Goff: Oh, it never is.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No. So—
Hon Annette King: Always changing the goalposts.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Actually, we are not changing. The consistent position we have always taken, and which the member took when he was in Government, is the household labour force survey.
Uh, huh. That would be the HLFS we were told to ignore by Key earlier this year.
OK. another simple question. How much have wages moved by in the last year?
We could look a the New Zealand Income Survey, which was out yesterday:
Hon David Cunliffe: Does the New Zealand Income Survey released today confirm that the median wage increase last year was just 1.9 percent and inflation was 5.3 percent, implying a cut in real terms in the median wage of 3.4 percent over the last year?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Every time the member uses figures in that way, it confirms that he is not getting to grips with what is actually happening in the real world, as opposed to in his own head.
No? What about the Labour Cost Index. It produced a very similar number:
Hon Phil Goff: Were the statistics produced by Statistics New Zealand yesterday that showed that wages and salaries had gone up by 1.9 percent when inflation was running at 5.3 percent accurate?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member is mixing a number of different factors. He is looking at the Labour Cost Index, which, as I said yesterday—and I am happy to take the member through it again—is a static, like-for-like comparison. It does not look at all the factors that go into wages. If one looks at all of those factors—that is, the quarterly employment survey
The Quarterly Employment Survey, eh? What do the officials say? “It should be noted that the QES can be volatile given it is affected by compositional changes. The LCI is generally the preferred measure of wage growth.”
Shit, so the Quarterly Employment Survey is volatile, eh? And we know how National hates to rely on volatile statistics.
The topper came on the final day of Parliament, yesterday. Labour had done the sums and worked out how badly Maori and Pacific Islanders have been hit by National’s “muddling through” according to the New Zealand Income Survey:
Hon David Cunliffe: Does the New Zealand Income Survey show that the real median income has fallen 6 percent after 3 years of his Government, and that real median incomes for Māori and Pasifika people have fallen by 16 percent and 21 percent respectively?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: In respect of the Māori and Pacific figures, there must be some question marks about the plausibility of the measure if it shows that for some reason Māori who are earning income are earning 16 percent less, yet the population as a whole is earning 2 or 3 percent more.
Yeah, it doesn’t show the whole population is earning more. It shows we’re earning 6% less. And the poorest communities are hit the hardest. When finally forced to front up to a statistic, rather than claim ‘it’s the wrong one’, National’s response to these facts isn’t to urgently investigate policies to fix the problem. It’s to whine that the survey must be broken.