Wellington unemployment at 18-year high

Wellington regional unemployment hit an 18-year high in the December quarter.

The Wellington region's unemployment rate has worsened sharply to 7.9 per cent in the December quarter, from 7.1 per cent in the September quarter.

Wellington unemployment was last this bad in September 1994, when it hit 8 per cent.

The unemployment rate in the region is now much higher than the national average which has improved to 6.9 per cent, from 7.3 per cent in the September quarter.

Statistics New Zealand figures out this morning show 22,600 people were unemployed in the Wellington region in the December quarter, compared with 21,000 in the three months to September.

Those in employment dropped from 273,200 in September to 262,600 in December, a fall of 11,000 in just three months.

There was also a rise in the numbers of people not in the workforce - either in work or looking for work.

The unemployment rate in Manawatu/ Wanganui worsened slightly in the December quarter to 8.5 per cent.

Gisborne and Hawke's Bay regional unemployment eased slightly to 8.6 per cent in final quarter of 2012.

Taranaki remained one of the strongest job markets, with unemployment of just 5.1 per cent.

Canterbury was also strong with unemployment of 4.9 per cent.

Auckland unemployment improved sharply, down from 8.6 per cent to 7.2 per cent in the December quarter.

Nationally, unemployment was 6.9 per cent in the December quarter, a significant improvement on the 7.3 per cent recorded in the September quarter.

But it was only because fewer people were working or looking for work and more people outside the labour market.

"We saw the unemployment rate fall this quarter after a rise last quarter. Although the unemployment rate fell, it is still 0.5 percentage points higher than a year ago," industry and labour statistics manager Diane Ramsay said.

The number of people in the labour force fell in the latest quarter, with falls in both the number of people employed and unemployed.

As a result, the labour force participation rate fell 1.2 percentage points to 67.2 percent. The number of people outside the labour force increased.

"We're seeing fewer people working and looking for work, and more people outside the labour force. More younger people are solely in study and more older people are entering retirement," Ms Ramsay said.

Figures out earlier in the week in the Quarterly Employment Survey and Labour Cost Index suggested the economy was "making progress", and the job market was in reasonable shape, economists said.

Economists had expected the official unemployment rate to improve in the December quarter, heading back towards 7 per cent, with a 0.1 per cent lift in jobs, according to earlier forecasts.

The Dominion Post