Gloomy new jobless forecasts suggest unemployment won't fall below 6 per cent before 2014, and opposition parties and unions say the Government must do more to create jobs.
It comes as hundreds of job losses were announced in the past week including 65 at the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter, 65 at Solid Energy's Christchurch head office and plans by food producer Goodman Fielder to cut its manufacturing factories from 53 to 35 within the next few years. In Tauranga, 20 full time and 200 seasonal workers at Mussel Processors Limited are at risk.
Forecasts released yesterday by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment predict unemployment will fall from 6.8 per cent in the June, 2012, quarter to 6.2 per cent next March and 5.9 per cent in 2014.
The Council of Trade Unions economist Bill Rosenberg said the forecasts were in "strong contrast" to the Government's Budget day prediction that unemployment would fall to 5.7 per cent next March.
There are now 162,000 New Zealanders unemployed.
"These figures continue to be alarmingly high. We need the Government to have a plan to generate jobs-led growth for our economy," Rosenberg said.
The Government needed to boost training for the Christchurch rebuild, build trains in New Zealand, retain public sector jobs, increase infrastructure projects, reinstate tertiary spending cuts and "stop hoping the market will fix this", he said.
Labour says the National-led Government has now lost more jobs than it has created.
Leader David Shearer said tens of thousands of Kiwis were losing their jobs because of the Government's "abysmal economic record".
"Under National, there are now 57,000 more people unemployed. In the past three months alone, another 2000 workers have registered as unemployed."
The Government blamed job losses on the global economic downturn but the climate was the same when it announced in the May Budget 170,000 new jobs would be created, he said.
Labour would modernise monetary policy to better support exporters, Shearer said.
His comments were echoed by NZ First leader Winton Peters who said the Government must address the "seriously overvalued" New Zealand dollar.
"The smelter owners have blamed the overvalued Kiwi dollar as playing a major role in the redundancies."
The kiwi is currently worth about US80 cents.
Finance Minister Bill English today blamed the job losses on "grumpy growth".
He acknowledged redundancies created "insecurity" for the workers and their families.
"If that was avoidable, that would be good," he told Radio New Zealand.
"But it is part of a pattern being called grumpy growth where we have within some sectors, companies doing better, companies doing worse."
While some mining companies were struggling, the Australian owned Bathurst Resources was ready to hire after getting final consents, English said.
He said that over the past few years 54,000 jobs had been created. "We would expect that rate of job creation to continue."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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