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Migration Bounces Back Up Again

Migration Bounces Back Up Again

What Happened?

Monthly data on migration flows and tourism numbers were released by Statistics NZ. The past few months have been showing a steady slowing in the pace of rise in the net addition to our population from migrant flows, leading to forecasts of falling net inflows in 2003. But in January the net gain of 5,559 was 849 more than January last year, taking the annual gain to a new record of 39,049 from 38,200 in December and 16,320 a year ago. The total net migration gain since June 2001 has been 62,000 people, equal to about 1.6% of the total NZ population.

Of interest was the small net loss of Kiwis as migrants in January of 1,954 versus 2,806 a year ago and the smallest January loss since 1998. The annual loss of Kiwis fell to 15,843 from 29,312 a year ago and an average of near 22,000 the past decade. The 15,843 loss was the smallest since May 1996.

Tourist numbers were up 7.9% from a year ago and 7.5% for the year to January. Seasonally adjusted visitor numbers rose at a trend rate of 0.7% in January and were up by a slightly above trend 2.2% in the three months to January.

WHY DID THIS HAPPEN?

Monthly data can be volatile and at the moment data may be getting distorted slightly by migration rule changes. But the fact that emigration in January was down 8.5% from a year ago after being down an average 4.5% the previous three months suggests the relative attraction of NZ in uncertain times overseas remains strong.

The tourism growth of 0.7% in January is relatively low considering the Americas Cup effect, while recent underlying acceptable growth near 7% trend partly reflects general growth worldwide in Asian tourist numbers.

WHO IS AFFECTED AND HOW?

Builders as the continued very strong population growth suggests boom times continuing apace for many months.

Home owners as prices get bid up.

Retailers as more people means more tvs etc. Borrowers as the strong population growth will underpin economic growth and inflation.

Infrastructure users as strong population growth will increase pressures, possibly bringing an increased incidence of new special charges to fund infrastructure development.

WILL THIS CONTINUE?

We expect net migrant inflows to peak soon but that overall this year a net gain of 30,000 remains likely. This will underpin housing activity and economic growth overall. The risk is that if the world economic upturn takes longer to appear than currently expected the net migrant gain this year will surpass our expectations. Tourist numbers risk growing below 7% trend due to the rising NZ dollar, weak world growth, and war.

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