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Labour market consolidating

11 February 2004 Media Statement

Labour market consolidating

An increase in full-time employment, a decrease in part-time employment and an increase in the total number of hours worked has seen the labour market consolidate.

According to Statistics New Zealand’s Household Labour Force Survey for the December 2003 quarter the official unemployment rate now stands at 4.6 percent (up 0.2 percentage points from the previous quarter, but down 0.3 percentage points for the year). Full-time employment grew by 0.5 percent over the quarter, while part-time employment fell by 1.4 percent. The total number of people employed grew by 1,000 to 1,939,000 (or 176,000 more since the Labour-led government was elected).

Social Development and Employment Minister Steve Maharey said it was clear that employment growth was consolidating after strong growth in the September 2003 quarter.

“New Zealand has enjoyed very strong employment growth now for several years. Movements in this quarter from part to full-time work and relatively stable ethnic, regional and industry-based employment growth point to a consolidation, but continuation, of employment growth.

“Demand for labour remains very strong, as reflected in measures of skill and labour shortages. However, this demand was met by an increase in hours worked, a significant shift from part-time to full-time employment and a reduction in recorded underemployment to its lowest since 1990, rather than a move from unemployment into employment. Nevertheless in the year to December 2003, the number of employed increased by 51,000 and the number of unemployed decreased by 4,000.

“However it’s clear that there continues to be a mismatch between job reductions (for example in manufacturing and agriculture) and jobs created (for example in construction and the wholesale and retail sector). This reinforces the importance of the government’s industry training strategy to upskill workers for the today’s labour market.

“Overall we are still expecting a solid year for employment, with job growth continuing through to mid year and a possible softening towards the end of 2004,” Steve Maharey said.


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