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Job figures no triumph for National

Today's employment statistics are no triumph for National, says Labour's employment spokesperson Steve Maharey.

"Any improvement in the unemployment rate is welcome, however slight," Mr Maharey says. "But employment remains a major election issue and today's numbers give no cause for complacency. New Zealand still has 123,800 people out of work.

"Three years ago, when this Government took office, unemployment was at 6.0%. Now it is 6.8%. A drop of 0.2% in the last quarter is nothing to crow about. Long-term unemployment at 48,300 is still unacceptably high. Maori unemployment at 14.8% is still scandalous.

"The type of new job being created under National is also a concern. Since December 1996 there are only 2000 more people employed full-time, while the number in part-time employment has increased by 12,000. These are the 'McJobs' of National's low-skill, low-wage economy.

"The number of people who have given up hope of employment is too high. Part of the slight improvement in the unemployment figure is due to people leaving the labour force. Participation is only at 65.2% of the working-age population.

"The real story about jobs in New Zealand is that bright young people are finding better ones overseas. The brain drain is taking away our best and brightest as they flee student loan debts and head for economies that make better use of their talents.

"Labour is also concerned at the continued loss of manufacturing jobs. Carter Holt Harvey announced today that it is shedding 50-70 jobs because of restructuring at its Swanson plant in Auckland. It is their third announcement of layoffs in recent months.

"This means 54 manufacturers this year have announced major job losses, with most going overseas. An EMA Northern consultant recently counted 7412 redundancies in the sector in the past 18 months.

"Labour in Government will work for a substantial and permanent improvement in employment, not the occasional bounce."

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