At 6.4% unemployment appears to be falling, slowly. But it also appears to be above where it was at the start of the year, when it supposedly plunged to 6.0%. Economists are viewing the Statistics NZ numbers sceptically because they are fluctuating wildly. Whatever precisely is happening, with one in ten working age Kiwis unable to get work, it’s not time for dancing in the streets.
It looks like there’s something wrong with the adjustments that are made to the seasonally-adjusted unemployment series (that’s the one you see in the headlines). It has jumped around like mad the last year: 7.1%, 6.0%, 6.9%, 6.4%. There have been significant revisions of past numbers each quarter. All of which is causing economists to view the numbers with some suspicion.
But the consensus, which matches with the trend series, is that unemployment peaked earlier this year and is edging down at about 0.1-0.2% per quarter. Hardly breakneck speed considering it rose 2.5% in National’s first year. We’ll be waiting four years just to undo that damage at this rate.
Put it another way: the number of unemployed doubled in less than two years, with about 80,000 more Kiwis out of work. Over the past six months, the number of extra unemployed is down about 10,000.
Here is a graph of the different types of work need stacked on top of each other – you’ve the officially unemployed (people on the dole are a sub-set of this), then the jobless (all those who would take a job if one were offered to them, including those who have given up actively looking), finally on top are the underemployed who want more hours than they have:
When 350,000 of us, over 10% of the working age population, want work but can’t get it, it’s not exactly time for dancing in the streets. What we need is a government that gives a crap and has a plan.