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Playing fast and loose with unemployment stats

4 October 2000 Media Statement

Playing fast and loose with unemployment stats won't wash


Misleading use of unemployment statistics by opposition MPs do them no credit, says Social Services and Employment Minister Steve Maharey.

Opposition leader Jenny Shipley and ACT MP Muriel Newman have both attempted to use a reported increase in the number of long-term registered unemployed as evidence of an increase in the actual number of New Zealanders out of work. This is despite a drop in the number of unemployed, as measured by the Household Labour Force Survey, since the Government took office in December 1999. Mr Maharey said Mrs Shipley and Mrs Newman were clearly having difficulty coming to terms with the difference between the two sets of figures.

"Unemployment remains a significant problem which the Government is actively working to address. It is irresponsible of opposition politicians to play fast and loose with unemployment statistics.

"The Household Labour Force Survey is the only accepted measure of unemployment. It clearly records a drop of nearly one-percent in the year to June 2000 (the latest available quarter).

"Over the same time Mäori unemployment has dropped from 18.2% to 13.0%, and unemployment amongst Pacific peoples has dropped from 12.8% to 10.8%.

"Mrs Shipley and Mrs Newman are not comparing like with like. The registered unemployment statistics kept by the Department of Work and Income are an administrative tool to help provide assistance to those people who are actively looking for work or more work.

"Policy changes such as work testing of beneficiaries have increased the number of beneficiaries who are included in the totals. This does not mean that there now more unemployed New Zealanders, simply that groups such as those on the DPB and the spouses of some beneficiaries are now counted.

"The only credible and consistent set of information about the number of unemployed people in New Zealand is the Household Labour Force Survey and this shows that unemployment has fallen while the new Government has been in office," Steve Maharey said.

ENDS

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