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Unemployment Rate at 4.3 Percent

Unemployment Rate at 4.3 Percent

The March 2004 quarter Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS) results showed tightening labour market conditions, reflected by a quarterly employment growth of 0.9 percent, an increase in total actual hours worked of 1.6 percent, and a fall in the unemployment rate to 4.3 percent. The unemployment rate of 4.3 percent is the fourth lowest for all OECD countries, bettered only by the Republic of Korea, Luxembourg and Switzerland.

The growth in employment is higher than the December 2003 quarter result and is consistent with recent trends of strong employment growth. This growth was driven by a strong rise of 1.1 percent in full-time employment with no change in part-time employment levels. A pattern of stronger full-time than part-time growth has been evident over a number of quarters. Since June 2002, the average quarterly full-time growth in the trend series was 0.7 percent, while there was almost no change in part-time employment over this period.

The fall in the unemployment rate was a consequence of falling unemployment relative to an increase in the total labour force. The growth in the working-age population this quarter has not been as large as the growth in employment and hours worked. The working-age population grew by 0.5 percent over the quarter and 1.9 percent annually, while the seasonally adjusted figure for those not in the labour force showed an increase of 0.2 percent over the quarter.

Correspondingly, the labour force participation rate increased by 0.1 percentage points to 66.6 percent.

Over the year, unadjusted unemployment rates have fallen for all ethnic groups except the 'Other' ethnic group, which has remained unchanged. The unadjusted unemployment rates in the March 2004 quarter stood at 9.4 percent for Mäori, 7.9 percent for Pacific peoples, 7.7 percent for the 'Other' ethnic group, and 3.4 percent for the European/Päkehä ethnic group.

David Archer

Acting Government Statistician

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