Unemployment rate plunges
Unemployment in the top of the south has fallen markedly in a year.
The Household Labour Force Survey, an official measure of employment, shows the unemployment rate for the Nelson, Tasman, Marlborough and West Coast region has dropped from 5.8 per cent to 4.2 per cent in the year to December. That's 4300 people unemployed, 1400 fewer.
That was not as good as in the September quarter when it was down to 3.9 per cent.
However, the region has fared better than most other parts of the country, with the national unemployment rate now 6 per cent.
Nelson had been picking up over the last year and the increase in jobs had been across the board, said Nelson Regional Economic Development Agency chief executive Bill Findlater.
"Retail had a good year, construction is starting to improve, the primary sector had a good year and will again this year. There is a general feeling of optimism and people are getting more comfortable about taking on staff or retaining them," he said.
For a while businesses had dropped off staff where they would have held on to them. "We are now back to keeping them and perhaps increasing," he said.
The region had always maintained a lower unemployment rate than nationally because its spread of industry meant it was not dependent on one particular industry and had a good spread across the primary section.
Statistics NZ's industry and labour statistics manager Diane Ramsay said: "We are seeing strength across the labour market, particularly in the industries that provide services."
The unemployment rate has been falling nationwide and job numbers rising for the last 18 months, with both levels now back to those last recorded in early 2009.
"These results are further evidence that the New Zealand economy is heading in the right direction," Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said on news that the number of people employed rose 24,000 in the final three months of 2013 and by 66,000 over the year.
"What is pleasing is the growth is right across the country and shows the Government's responsible economic policies and comprehensive business growth agenda is creating the opportunities for businesses to invest and employ more people."
CTU economist Bill Rosenberg said it was disappointing that national unemployment was still at 6 per cent, or 147,000 people, given the growing economy.
"At this stage in the recovery, New Zealand's unemployment rate should be much lower. We should be disappointed it isn't below 5 per cent rather than seeing it creep down at a glacial rate."
Six years ago, before the crisis began, it was at 3.5 per cent and government efforts should be focusing on getting it back to there, he said.
A large part of the increase in employment was in part-time work. The number of part-time workers rose 7 per cent over the year but the number of fulltime workers rose only 4.2 per cent.
The Nelson Mail