Unemployment rose from 3.4% to 3.6% between the December and March quarters.
The number of people employed fell 15,000 from 2,162,000 in the December quarter to 2,147,000 in the March quarter. That sickening sound you hear is the Right celebrating because people have lost their jobs.
An increase in unemployment was, unfortunately, always coming given the global pressures on New Zealand with the American credit crunch, which is linked with the global housing slowdown, the ever-rising price of oil (up 23% in just four months), and skyrocketing food prices. But things are not bad. Unemployment was higher (3.7%) this time last year and the number of jobs in the economy was lower.
It’s worth noting that in this same quarter the number of people on the unemployment benefit actually fell to it’s lowest level in 29 years, suggesting people are not staying unemployed long enough to get the dole. There is no expectation that unemployment will return to levels last experienced under National in the 1990s. Unemployment may even remain below 4%.
Inevitably, the Right will try to play this slight increase in unemployment to their political advantage. Which is somewhat ironic since it was Bill English, in 1999, who said Labour’s aim of getting unemployment under 4% was a ‘hoax’. National had never had unemployment below 6%. The unemployment rate fell below 6% within 9 months of National being kicked out of office and has remained below 4% for four straight years now.