Jobless rate up to 8.4pc

MATHEW GROCOTT
Last updated 12:00 09/11/2012

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The unemployment rate in Manawatu/Whanganui has exploded in the past 12 months, even outstripping a national average that has hit a 13-year high.

For the September quarter the region's unemployment rate rose to 8.4 per cent, up from 6.2 per cent at the same time last year.

The Statistics New Zealand's Household Labour Force Survey figures put unemployment nationally at 7.3 per cent as of September, up from 6.4 per cent a year earlier.

"It's bad news for the region, it's an unprecedented increase," said Palmerston North MP Iain Lees-Galloway. "Nationally, it's also a significant increase."

Mr Lees-Galloway said while Statistics NZ did not break down the figures to an area smaller than Manawatu/Whanganui, there was no way Palmerston North would come through such a jump in unemployment "unscathed".

Unions Manawatu convenor John Shennan said concerns about job security were shared by people across the region.

"We are certainly getting lots of reports of manufacturing companies going to the wall."

The jobs market had also been hit by layoffs across several government departments, he said.

"There's constant restructuring; businesses are laying off staff because of the [high NZ dollar, which makes business tougher for exporters]."

Mr Lees-Galloway said it was difficult to find a job in Manawatu.

"When the [Countdown] supermarket opened in Kelvin Grove there were 100 new jobs there and more than 1100 people applied for those jobs. For a minimum wage job, people are battling with 10 other people. Other jobs are not being filled because people don't have the requisite skills, but at the same time we're seeing UCOL losing funding."

Statistics NZ's definition of Manawatu/Whanganui groups Palmerston North City with Horowhenua, Tararua, Manawatu, Rangitikei, Whanganui and Ruapehu Districts.

Palmerston North City Council economic adviser Peter Crawford said the numbers had to be viewed with caution as with a 2 per cent margin of error the unemployment figure could in reality be anywhere between 6.4 per cent and 10.4 per cent.

"What we know from Ministry of Social Development data is, compared with September last year, the total number of people on the unemployment benefit has gone down in [Palmerston North and Manawatu] by about 9 per cent."

Any increase in the rate of unemployment was likely to be stronger in the Whanganui, Rangitikei and Ruapehu part of Manawatu/Whanganui, he said.

In the Whanganui District alone, the number of people on the unemployment benefit rose 11 per cent in the year to September.

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Rangitikei MP Ian McKelvie said the increase in the unemployment rate in the past 12 months was hard to explain, but said "it's hard to find work, a lot of businesses are struggling".

The region was home to a lot of owner-operator businesses that had managed to continue trading, but had had to lose staff, he said.

Mr Lees-Galloway said the Government had to stop blaming the global financial crisis and admit it had failed to create jobs.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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