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Unemployment Benefit smashes 40,000 barrier

6 July 2006

Unemployment Benefit smashes 40,000 barrier

New Zealand's Unemployment Benefit numbers have broken through the 40,000 barrier for the first time in 24 years.

Work and Income quarterly figures show that at the end of June this year, 39,572 New Zealanders were registered unemployed. The last time Unemployment Benefit numbers were under 40,000 was in 1982.

Social Development Minister David Benson-Pope released the quarterly figures at the launch of the Auckland Regional Plan this morning, saying they were a huge endorsement of the Government's supportive, work-focused approach.

Mr Benson-Pope said, "Unemployment Benefit numbers have plummeted 75% since the Labour-led Government first took office in 1999. Seven years ago, the economy was languishing, and around 161,000 New Zealanders were on Unemployment Benefit.

"Today, Unemployment Benefit numbers are below 40,000 – a drop of 22% in the past year alone. Sole parent benefit numbers have dropped 5% in the last year to 93,400, and we've got the growth in Sickness and Invalid's Benefit numbers firmly under control."

Mr Benson-Pope rejected claims that people were simply moving off Unemployment and onto Sickness or Invalids Benefit.

"Under National, Sickness Benefit numbers rose by 69%, and Invalids Benefit numbers rose by 84%. In the year to June 2006, the growth rate of Sickness and Invalids Benefit was down to 3% and 4% respectively. This is just a fraction of the number of people moving off Unemployment Benefit", he said.

"Overall, since the Labour-led Government took office in 1999, combined working-age benefit numbers -- Unemployment Benefit, Sickness Benefit, Invalids Benefit, Domestic Purposes Benefit – have dropped by over 30%, from 372,000 to 280,300".

Mr Benson-Pope said the latest figures represent "a huge milestone for New Zealand. Since the Government took office in 1999, we've supported people to take charge of their lives and take up opportunities. We've proved that supportive, not punitive, policies are the right way to go".

"The Labour-led Government is determined that every New Zealander will get a fair go".

ENDS

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