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Number on unemployment benefit hits 20-year low

Hon David Benson-Pope
Minister for Social Development and Employment
Member of Parliament for Dunedin South

9 May 2006 Media Statement

Number on unemployment benefit hits 20-year low

The number of New Zealanders receiving an unemployment benefit has reached levels not seen in 20 years, Social Development and Employment Minister David Benson-Pope said today.

Mr Benson-Pope says the last time unemployment was this low KZ7 was racing off Fremantle, Billy T James was our most popular entertainer, women were wearing leg warmers and Dave Dobbyn's Slice of Heaven was topping the charts.

As at the end of the March quarter 2006, the total number of New Zealanders receiving an unemployment benefit was 44,549. This is 116,579 fewer than when Labour took office in 1999 – a drop in the number receiving an unemployment benefit of 72.4 percent. In the year to March 2006, the total number of people receiving an unemployment benefit fell by a further 10,387 or 18.9 percent.

"The last time unemployment was at levels similar to this was the mid 1980s," said Mr Benson-Pope. "This big drop in the number of unemployed has been a driver in the overall reduction in the number of people receiving benefits."

In the year to March 2006 the total number of beneficiaries in New Zealand fell by a further 8,374 or 2.9 percent. Under Labour over 117,000 fewer people are reliant on a benefit today than when Labour took office, a drop in the number of beneficiaries of nearly 30 percent. This in turn has seen a 20 percent reduction in the number of children living in benefit dependant households – that’s 56,600 children.

"These results have been achieved by opening up real opportunities – not by impoverishing beneficiaries or placing them in make work schemes," said Mr Benson-Pope. "Let’s not forget that under National unemployment grew 11 percent in the 1990s, so that in taking office in 1999 there were 161,000 receiving an unemployment benefit – as at the end of the March quarter this year, there are just 44,550."


Unemployment 1986 - 2006:
Year Unemployed*
1986 42,405
1987 63,922
1988 86,782
1989 123,565
1990 149,078
1991 140,432
1992 156,744
1993 159,623
1994 147,244
1995 127,280
1996 107,330
1997 122,427
1998 134,573
Mar 1999 144,895
Dec 1999 161,128
Mar 2000 140,157
2001 128,529
2002 114,627
2003 100,986
2004 75,164
2005 54,936
2006 44,549
(*Data at the end of March; 1986-1996 all ages, 1996-2006 working aged only.)

ENDS

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