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Maharey: How Low Can Unemployment Go?

22 March 2001 Media Statement

New Zealand's unemployment rate seems set to continue tracking down over the intermediate period ahead, Social Services and Employment Minister Steve Maharey.

Speaking at a public meeting on employment in Christchurch this evening Mr Maharey said while economists differed on employment projections most were predicting moderate employment growth over the next two to three year period. A cooling off of the international economy has the potential to affect the level of employment in New Zealand but the Government remained optimistic that real job growth can be sustained.

"The best advice the Government is receiving suggests that the country can look forward to continued job growth.

"As a member of the Labour Party I feel the responsibility to get ordinary New Zealanders into jobs very keenly. Labour and the Alliance have placed employment squarely at the centre of the Government's programme.

"Potential roadblocks which could frustrate achieving lower unemployment include a slowdown in the home economies of our major trading partners and skill shortages in some growth industries. However New Zealand's underlying economic fundamentals remain sound and job prospects for the long term unemployed – the group in which skills shortages are most likely to be concentrated – also improved over the last year.

"Our present rate of unemployment, 5.6%, is the lowest we have seen in this country since mid 1988. We are doing well, but there are no grounds for complacency and we must continue to do better," Steve Maharey said.

Ends

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