Average wages are keeping a nose in front of rising costs of living but only just, especially for government workers.
The average worker in a private company got a 2.1 per cent annual wage rise this year, yet again outpacing their counterparts in central government jobs.
There was a 1.6 per cent increase in central government wages as the government kept a tight lid on costs, but a 2.4 per cent increase in local government salary and wage rates.
Overall, Statistics NZ figures out today showed salary and wages including overtime rose 2 per cent in the year to June 30, covering both private and state sector jobs. Wages and salaries were up 0.4 per cent in the June quarter.
With annual inflation of just 1 per cent in the past year, the average worker is marginally better off.
However, unionists said that the latest quarterly rise in wages meant workers were no better off compared to inflation than they were at the start of the year and 2.5 per cent behind were they were in early 2009.
In contrast, Australian wages were 2.5 per cent ahead of inflation since 2009, with the wage gap between the two countries widening.
''Inflation is low and wages certainly aren't pushing up prices,'' Council of trade Unions economist Bill Rosenberg said. But unemployment was high and was expected to stay that way for some time.
More spending power in people's pockets might just be the thing to stimulate activity in the economy, Rosenberg said.
''If they were buying more New Zealand made goods and services, firms would be able to employ more people,'' Rosenberg said.
The wage figures also showed that only 56 per cent of workers received a rise to address the cost of living, Rosenberg said.
Private sector wages have been growing about 2 per cent a year for most of the past two years with little sign wages are picking up in a still struggling economy.
With only a gradually lift in the labour market, unemployment has remained relatively high in the past year at 6.7 per cent, keeping a lid on wage rises. There are few areas facing labour shortages, which might spark high pay rates.
But ASB economists said in the coming year as building work in Canterbury picked up; skill shortages would become more widespread throughout the economy and push up wages.
In the year to the June the mean increase for all surveyed salary and ordinary time wage rates that rose was 3.9 per cent. That was the highest increase since a 3.9 per cent mean increase in the year to the March 2010 quarter.
A recent survey by recruitment company Hays showed a big gap between workers' expectations of a salary rise this financial year compared to that of employers'.
Some 35 per cent of workers expect their salary to rise by more than six per cent in their next review, a further 28 per cent expect an increase between three and six per cent, while 37 per cent expect less than three per cent.
However Hays said 63 per cent of employers intend to increase salaries by less than three per cent when they next review. Twenty two per cent will increase between three and six per cent, and six per cent of employers will increase above six per cent. The final nine per cent will not offer any increases.
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