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Unemployment figures

Written By: - Date published: 12:03 pm, May 8th, 2008 - 52 comments
Categories: workers' rights - Tags:

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.

(data)

52 comments on “Unemployment figures ”

  1. Daveo 1

    The neoliberal economists have been bitching incessantly about ‘wage inflation’ over the last few days. Unemployment must go up to relieve wage pressure they say – the Reserve Bank won’t be happy with all these people in work earning good money.

    What they hell do these people think the economy is for?

  2. Billy 2

    External factors beyond the government’s control impacting on unemployment? But I thought you guys told me that low unemployment was all down to the government’s policies. So when unemployment goes down it is because Michael Cullen is a genius. When it goes up it is because of…evil capitalists.

  3. mike 3

    Goodtimes thanks to Labour – bad times due to “global” pressures

    You can’t have it both ways Steve.

  4. Obviously both government policy and other factors influence unemployment levels. And it’s clear what the factors have been behind this small uptick.

  5. Matthew Pilott 5

    mike, what you’re saying in effect is that there is only a single influence on the economy. I’m not sure that’s the case.

  6. Dim (was dime) 6

    looking at Bill’s comment in 99…

    can you check how many people were on the sickness benefit back then? as opposed to now? and other benefits?

    could it be that a lot of people have been transferred from unemployment benefits to other benefits?

    is it strange that for years we have heard how great this govt was and how well they handled the economy… and yet now its turning to pooh its all cause of overseas influence?

    could it be that this govt has prospered from the best economic conditions the world has ever known?

    has the NZ economy done well these last few years in spite of labour? not because of?

  7. jh 7

    National & Labour R Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Read Richard Hienberg’s The Party’s Over and get the BIG picture.

    Anyone read it?

  8. James Kearney 8

    But John Key said it guys! You can’t expect the right to come up with their own arguments…

  9. jh. yeah but either Tweedledum or Tweedledee is going to be in charge when the party comes to a crashing halt – and I would prefer -dee, with strong support from the Greens.
    ____

    Dime. you’re new here so you won’t know but we’ve had extensive coverage of benefit numbers – try typing benefits or beneficaires in the search box on the front page. total benefit numbers are way down (over 100,000) since Labour came to power – beneficaires as a portion of the population are even further down, the daily cost of benefits has dropped dramatically.

  10. James Kearney 10

    National & Labour R Tweedledum and Tweedledee

    Tell that to a minimum wage worker, or someone facing the unjustified dismissal, or a family enjoying their fourth week’s annual leave.

    I’m sick of this smug crap from comfortable middle class leftists. Try living in the real world for a change.

  11. r0b 11

    Dime: could it be that a lot of people have been transferred from unemployment benefits to other benefits?

    It could be, but in fact it itsn’t. The number of working age people on benefits is at an all time low. Check out discussion here:

    Cost of benefit system plummeting

    Fewer on sole parenting benefit

    Know your Nat: Judith Collins

    If you want to look at the raw data for yourself check out the Ministry of Social Development stats:

    http://www.msd.govt.nz/media-information/benefit-factsheets/national-benefit-factsheets.html

    Headline Benefit Numbers at the end of December 2007

    At the end of December 2007, 270,000 working aged people were receiving main social security benefits. This compares with 367,000 in December 2002 and 287,000 in December 2006. The number of working aged people receiving main benefits decreased by 17,000 (six percent) in the 12 months ended December 2007, and by 98,000 (27 percent) in the five years ended December 2007.

  12. Matthew Pilott 12

    jh – Paul Roberts’ The End Of Oil might be a slightly less pessimistic alternative, if The Party’s Over has you feeling vaguely nihilistic!

  13. Dim (was dime) 13

    ok cool 🙂

    now, anyone want to answer this…

    is it strange that for years we have heard how great this govt was and how well they handled the economy and yet now its turning to pooh its all cause of overseas influence?

  14. Steve: I think it is a little unfair to think all us ‘righties’ will be happy to see people out of work. I’m sure you are right that Bill English will no doubt use it to attack the ‘Gummint’.

    The Misery Index is starting to peak up a bit after a decade of a general fall. It is interesting that inspite of a falling Misery Index under Labour that our advantage over Australia has fallen during the same time: http://www.interest.co.nz/ratesblog/index.php/2008/02/08/chart-misery-index/

  15. Phil 15

    A point to note;

    Employment fell 1.3 percent in the March quarter. This is the largest quarterly decline in 20 years… ouch

  16. Phil 16

    Just noticed Steve’s comment;

    “Obviously both government policy and other factors influence unemployment levels. And it’s clear what the factors have been behind this small uptick.”

    Small uptick in unemployment?!

    Most of the decline was in Housing and Retail Spending related categories/industries. If you think this is a ‘small uptick’ and not part of a much longer term scenario of declining employment, then you’re a moron.

    [bro, unemployment is lower than it was a year ago. Look at the graph, that’s a small uptick so far. More rising unemployment is likely to follow but I don’t see it getting much beyond 4%, not with the strong positive factors in the economy (dairy, oil, tax cuts) and the growing likelihood of early rate cuts. Unless we go into global recession from peak oil, in which case all bets are off. SP]

  17. r0b 17

    is it strange that for years we have heard how great this govt was and how well they handled the economy and yet now its turning to pooh its all cause of overseas influence?

    Dime, unless you get all your news of Kiwiblog and NZ TV, you might have noticed that there is a global economic crisis in progress:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2008/apr/10/useconomy.subprimecrisis

    We are in the worst financial crisis since Depression, says IMF

    Governments will have to pay for more bailouts, says Fund as it slashes growth forecasts and warns of global recession. …
    The Guardian, Thursday April 10 2008

    People are referring to it as a Great Depression:
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/usa-2008-the-great-depression-803095.html

    Reserve Bank Governor Allan Bollard discusses this and the effect on NZ, and notes how well placed we are to weather the storm (thanks to Cullen’s prudent management of the economy):

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/topic/story.cfm?c_id=201&objectid=10488805

    “We have been able to absorb recent shocks reasonably well because of the improvements in our economic institutions and policymaking frameworks, avoiding the boom-bust cycles of the 1970s.”

    So Dime, ta for getting over here and educating us socialsts!

    [lprent: Dim managed to call Irish a liar at a personal level on another thread, and got the inevitable banning. I do wish people would read the Policy page before they get over-excited.]

  18. Billy 18

    Good point, r0b. So we forgive National for high unemployment during the Asian crisis?

  19. Billy 19

    Actually, if you take out that 1998-ish lump, unemployment has been on a constant downward trend since Ruth Richardson introduced incentives to work.

  20. r0b 20

    To a certain extent Billy yes. As Steve said above “Obviously both government policy and other factors influence unemployment levels.” Of course the Nats did other things which contributed to driving unemployment up, while Labour have consistently brought it down.

  21. AndrewE 21

    That sickening sound you hear is the Right celebrating because people have lost their jobs.

    I stopped reading after that. You really do take this left/right thing too far sometimes.

  22. Phil. interested to hear your thoughts on why the benefit numbers have fallen while unemployment has risen. This suggests to me that while more people have been unemployed in the March quarter they’ve been able to find work quickly enough that they are not able to register for the dole – the rate of churn has sped up – at any one time mroe people are unemployed but people aren’t having trouble finding replacement work.
    ___

    Billy, that’s not correct, unemployment rises from the point Richardson became Finance Minsiter, see the really big spike, that’s all her, things started to get better later but were still worse when National left office than when they entered it. You can see the numbers and dates on the data table linked beside the graph. Interesting that before Ruth Richardson and Douglas introduced these wonderful ‘incentives to work’ of which you speak that NZ’s unemployment was traditionally below 2%.

  23. AndrewE – read the thread and see if I’m wrong.

  24. Billy 24

    Didn’t know Ruth Richardson was in charge of the economy in 1982.

  25. Yep: unemployment has collapsed from the 150,000 it was when Labour took command of the ship. And clearly the numbers show that they haven’t been transferred to the sickness benefit: http://www.interest.co.nz/ratesblog/index.php/2008/02/08/chart-benefit-numbers/ So it looks like Labour has done a good job on getting us into work: perhaps it’s time for a focus on making that work worth more ?

  26. Daveo 26

    Andrew E:

    I stopped reading after that. You really do take this left/right thing too far sometimes.

    But Steve’s right. If you’ve read the business pages over the last few weeks they’ve all been complaining about the labour market being too tight for their liking and how they’d like to see more unemployment. It’s not very nice but there it is.

    Mawgxlkfjsdlgndsgndsg: people’s work is worth more. Wage growth under Labour is on the rise and the gap with Australia has stopped widening.

  27. Scribe 27

    Mike,

    Thanks. You said it for me:

    Goodtimes thanks to Labour – bad times due to “global’ pressures

    You can’t have it both ways Steve.

  28. big bruv 28

    Steve

    “That sickening sound you hear is the Right celebrating because people have lost their jobs”

    That’s about as low as one can get Steve, you pinko’s really don’t bother letting the truth get in the way of your lies and smear tactics do you.

    Mind you, it is becoming all the more common among your lot, the closer you get to losing power the nastier and more desperate you become.

  29. randal 29

    why not…give a reason! you tin pot tories keep putting everything in terms of this or that when it can be or could be both, none or something completely different. dont you have anything to say except falsifying one dimensional arguments?

  30. randal 30

    big bruv it seems to be beyond your comprehension that many employers are in it for the psychological satisfction of dominating people who have no choice but your words betray you.

    [lprent: I have a problem with that. It hasn’t been my experience]

  31. Daveo 31

    bruv. many on the right have been celebrating the idea of workers losing their jobs. try reading the business section for a change.

  32. Billy 32

    randal, you’ve made this claim before. Do you know how deranged that claim makes you sound? Just saying…

  33. big bruv 33

    Randal

    You are a fool, no doubt you are a union rep or the like.
    One who steals money from your members by way of dues every week to pay your high salary.

    I do not know of ONE employer who is in business for the “psychological satisfaction of dominating people” and the reality is that nor do you, all you do is spout the usual pinko crap and hope it scares people into voting for you.

    Do not forget Randal that this has happened under a LABOUR govt, you cannot blame the Nat’s for this and given that your corrupt party has been taking the credit (falsely) for the recent good times they must take the blame for the hard times that are about to follow.

    The saving grace for the people of NZ is that things are about to change come November, one can only hope that Cullen and dear leader do not continue with the economic sabotage of the NZ economy in the mean time

  34. big bruv 34

    Daveo

    Name them…come on tell us who they are and provide the proof..

  35. Big Bruv. What has “happened under a LABOUR govt”?

    4 years of unemployment below 4% when National couldn’t even get it below 6%?

  36. mike 36

    “satisfction of dominating people ”

    Randal you are one sick pinko puppy

  37. Daveo 37

    Name them come on tell us who they are and provide the proof..

    For a start the bank economists like Cameron Bagrie and Tony Alexander. Secondly the business journalists in our major papers. Don’t you read the business section big bruv? If you’re going to be a credible tory you probably should.

  38. r0b 38

    Goodtimes thanks to Labour – bad times due to “global’ pressures

    No, you certainly can’t, not unless it happens to be true.

    Take Australia and NZ during the 1990s. Australia grew faster and had less social upheaval thanks to better government (while both faced the same global pressures). So it is certainly true that good or bad times can be influenced by governments and their policy.

    Take Australia and NZ since 2000. NZ has started catching up on Australia in terms of growth and lots of NZ social indicators have improved (while both faced the same global pressures). So it is fair to say that to a certain extent our recent good times are thanks to Labour led governments.

    Now take the world today. Everyone is suffering due to the effect of global pressures (anyone who puts global in scare quote marks here is pretty much marking themselves as a fool). See again my post in this thread of 1:25pm. The International Monetary Fund calls this the worst financial crises since the Depression (1930s).

    So once again, in short, you can’t have it both ways – unless it happens to be true.

  39. r0b 39

    Reposting with the correct intial context quote (sorry!):

    Goodtimes thanks to Labour – bad times due to “global’ pressures
    You can’t have it both ways Steve.

    No, you certainly can’t, not unless it happens to be true.

    Take Australia and NZ during the 1990s. Australia grew faster and had less social upheaval thanks to better government (while both faced the same global pressures). So it is certainly true that good or bad times can be influenced by governments and their policy.

    Take Australia and NZ since 2000. NZ has started catching up on Australia in terms of growth and lots of NZ social indicators have improved (while both faced the same global pressures). So it is fair to say that to a certain extent our recent good times are thanks to Labour led governments.

    Now take the world today. Everyone is suffering due to the effect of global pressures (anyone who puts global in scare quote marks here is pretty much marking themselves as a fool). See again my post in this thread of 1:25pm. The International Monetary Fund calls this the worst financial crises since the Depression (1930s).

    So once again, in short, you can’t have it both ways – unless it happens to be true.

  40. randal 40

    billy dont be a HERO…READ YOUR ADAM SMITH…VIZ..’THEORY OF MORAL SENTIMENTS’.

  41. randal 41

    lprent…read your marx on false consciousness…

    [lprent: I read a number of things by Marx about 30 years ago, along with various religous documents, philosphies (?spelling), political theories, and other ideas. Unlike my usual reading habits of reading anything decent at least 10 times, I only read them once or twice. Marx was probably revolutionary in his time, but I prefer Swift – it aged better]

  42. Draco TB 42

    given that your corrupt party has been taking the credit (falsely) for the recent good times

    It wasn’t incorrect for the Labour Party to take credit for what they’ve achieved. It’s obvious that <6% unemployment wouldn’t have happened under National because they still believe in Milton Friedman’s explanation that the economy will collapse if there is any less.

    they must take the blame for the hard times that are about to follow.

    Why should they take the blame for the hard times that are about to hit that are a direct result of an unregulated and ungoverned market, namely, the US market?

    Captcha: Chicago unchecked – yep, most definitely.

  43. mike 43

    “Australia grew faster and had less social upheaval thanks to better government”

    Anything to do with the mining boom perhaps Rob.
    Also why have we slipped in the OECD rankings under labour.
    (labours pledge was to lift us into the top half – another fib)
    You can’t blame National for that one…

  44. randal 44

    mike …dont you klnow that national is to blame for everything…when the economy is going gangbusters they squander everything and when its on the down then they put the squeeze on…no point inbeing winners unless there are losers. and last but not least when the u.s. sneezes we catch a cold…hehehehehe

  45. higherstandard 45

    r0b

    Do you accept that Australia being less of a basket case coming into the 90s contributed to their better performance.

    My point being that this and blogs/politicians of the left and right continually present comparative data from different countries and of one government vs another which are all interesting and useful for debate, however there are multitudes of confounding data which will always make comparing performances across countries and present vs. historical governments an exercise in intellectual masturbation rather than allowing any concrete conclusions to be made.

  46. r0b 46

    Anything to do with the mining boom perhaps Rob.

    Nothing at all mike. Australia has always had a mining industry, but the real boom started in 2003, so it can’t account for the 1990s.

    What it does show is how well NZ under Labour led governments is doing to keep up with and in some ways exceed Australia since 2003 even though mining is booming. (Heh, if you twisted my arm I might admit that high dairy prices aren’t doing us any harm either!).

  47. r0b 47

    Do you accept that Australia being less of a basket case coming into the 90s contributed to their better performance.

    Well yes it must have. It’s very hard to do economic comparisons in pure isolation.

    If you want an actual detailed look at Oz and NZ over this period check out (note PDF link):
    http://dspace.anu.edu.au/bitstream/1885/40245/2/MulganDP53_PPP.pdf

    New Zealand’s program of economic and public sector restructuring since 1984 is assessed in comparison with that of the Australian Commonwealth government. New Zealand’s reputation as more radical in its approach to restructuring is confirmed, though with a number of qualifications …

    Over the period 1983-95, New Zealand’s growth of GDP averaged just 2% per annum while Australia’s was 3.3% (compared with 2.7% for the OECD). More important, the aggregate results conceal significant changes in distribution over the period. There has been growing inequality of incomes associated with the major reduction in the highest rate of income tax which benefited the wealthy, and the reduction in wages at the lower end of the income scale due to the Employment Contracts Act and to the real reductions in social welfare payments (Easton 1995; Dalziel and Lattimore 1996, 98; Kelsey 1995, 256-9; cf Barker 1996). Though there are fewer registered unemployed, many of the new jobs created have been in part-time casual employment at low wage rates, raising real questions about the capacity of all wage earners to sustain themselves at a reasonable standard of living.

  48. leftie 48

    big bruv
    “Mind you, it is becoming all the more common among your lot, the closer you get to losing power the nastier and more desperate you become.”

    So labelling people Pinkos is not nasty? Would you do this in a pub? I say no you wouldn’t. Do you feel good sitting at your keyboard firing provocative and insulting names at people day after day? Classic bully boy behaviour.
    Many people here are arguing and fighting for the people at the bottom, what are you arguing and fighting for?

  49. Ted 49

    You’ve attacked the right for ‘celebrating’ these job losses, how do you feel about Ruth Dyson’s statement this morning that she doesn’t “think that this is bad news at all actually”?

  50. Tane 50

    Context is everything Ted, and wasn’t Dyson saying we should look at the job losses in context? I could be wrong (didn’t hear the interview), but I’d be surprised if she was celebrating job losses like some right-wing economists and property investors have been.

  51. Hillary 51

    The drop in the number of people in employment might partly be accounted for by more women now having th choice to stay home with their children because of WFF. I was pleased this morning to hear Dyson acknowledge that this is positive.

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