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Paid Hours and Filled Jobs Increase

The period August to November 1999 saw strong growth in paid hours and filled jobs. In general, the growth occurred in industries with lower average earnings, latest figures from Statistics New Zealand show.

In the November 1999 quarter, total paid hours increased by 3.2 per cent. This was partly related to an increase in job numbers over the same period, but also because people were working more hours. The quarterly increase in total paid hours occurred predominately in industries that have lower average earnings. Those industries included: accommodation, restaurants and cafes; manufacturing; and construction.

The largest increase in total paid hours came in the accommodation, cafes and restaurants industry which has the lowest level of average total hourly earnings of any industry in the survey. The increase in paid hours resulted from strong job growth above a level that is likely to be due to seasonal influences. This is consistent with recently published results in the Retail Trade Survey and the Accommodation Survey for November 1999, which have reported strong growth in this industry.

In the November 1999 quarter there was an increase in filled jobs of 18,400 or 1.3 per cent. The main contributors to this quarterly increase were the accommodation, cafes and restaurants; manufacturing and wholesale trade industries.

An effect of this pattern of increase in paid hours and filled jobs was to cause average total hourly earnings to decrease to $17.50 in November 1999, down from $17.58 in August 1999. This represents a quarterly decrease of 8 cents or 0.5 per cent.

The quarterly decrease in average total hourly earnings was, therefore, driven mainly by compositional changes rather than decreases in wage rates. Compositional effects occur when a change in the composition of the paid workforce affects the level of average earnings (or hours), regardless of whether or not there has been a change in wages. Wage rate statistics that exclude compositional effects are measured by the Labour Cost Index. This index provides a measure of wage inflation. The latest Labour Cost Index statistics for the December quarter are due to be released on Wednesday 23 February.

Private sector average ordinary time hourly earnings decreased by 0.8 per cent between August and November 1999 and are now $16.46. In the year to November 1999, private sector average ordinary time hourly earnings have increased 1.4 per cent. This is the lowest annual increase in private sector average ordinary time hourly earnings since the year to February 1994 (when there was an increase of 1.3 per cent).

Len Cook
Government Statistician

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