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Newman’s attack on employment statistics pathetic

Newman’s attack on employment statistics pathetic

The latest attack by Act MP Muriel Newman questioning the validity of official unemployment statistics has been labelled as pathetic by Social Services and Employment Minister Steve Maharey.

Mrs Newman issued a media statement yesterday claiming that the Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS) used by Statistics New Zealand to determine New Zealand’s official unemployment rate is being abandoned in other countries, that New Zealand’s ‘true’ unemployment rate is considerably higher than the 4.9 percent figure released earlier this week and that the survey methodology also understates unemployment. All these statements are inaccurate.

Steve Maharey said with unemployment now reaching a 15-year low, opposition politicians have become increasingly desperate to wip up bad news stories, but Mrs Newman’s latest attempt is pathetic.

“Continuing employment growth has now delivered a 15-year low unemployment rate in New Zealand. Translated into jobs, the 4.9 percent unemployment rate means that 123,000 more New Zealanders are now in employment than when the Labour-led government took office in December 1999.

“The government is far from complacent at these results because we recognise that too many New Zealanders still lack the dignity of paid work. In addition eternal factors, such as a war in Iraq, clearly loom as potential threats to our economy.

“Frankly Mrs Newman’s claims have no validity: she claims that countries are abandoning the HLFS because of concerns about its validity. In fact the opposite is true. Policy in the European Union is to standardise the measurement on unemployment to the ILO guideline based on a HLFS. Countries are in fact moving to adopt the HLFS, as the United Kingdom has recently done; she claims that New Zealand’s ‘true’ unemployment rate is considerably higher than 4.9 percent by counting some people twice; she claims that using unemployment benefit statistics would be a more effective measure despite knowing that many of those receiving the unemployment benefit are working part time; and to top it all off

. . / 2 she claims that increasing the ‘hours worked’ requirement would double New Zealand’s unemployment rate. I am advised that even if you did count those who are working less than 10 hours per week it wouldn’t make much difference to the figures.

“However I am prepared to be charitable and concede that Mrs Newman might not actually understand survey methodology. My officials are due to brief the Social Services Select Committee next month on measuring unemployment. I look forward to sensible comments from Mrs Newman following the briefing,” Steve Maharey said.

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