Govt on defensive over rise in jobless

ALEX FENSOME AND FAIRFAX
Last updated 05:00 09/11/2012

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Unemployment in Southland and Otago has risen to its highest level since 2000.

Household Labour Force Survey figures for the September quarter released yesterday show Southland unemployment up by 1 per cent to 5.3 per cent, or 3300 unemployed people from a potential workforce of 61,500.

The Otago unemployment rate rose 0.4 per cent to 5 per cent of the workforce, representing 6000 people out of work.

Major Southland employers including the Tiwai Pt aluminium smelter, Blue Sky Meats and Alliance Mataura meatworks have announced job losses in the past three months.

According to the Household Labour Force Survey, Southland unemployment has been above 5 per cent since 2000, when it hit 5.7 per cent in the September quarter.

However, the regions remain below the national rate, which has reached 7.3 per cent. More than 175,000 of people are out of work, the highest percentage since 1999.

The survey has frequently been referred to by ministers as the National-led Government's preferred measure of the employment situation.

The results from the September quarter have thrown doubt on the Government's handling of the economy, and the Opposition and unions have queued up to denounce its approach.

Southland Meat Workers Union general secretary Gary Davis said the news showed the Government had failed to create jobs or generate business.

He said the Government could not be blamed entirely for the decline in meatworks jobs, but it could have done more to help.

Moreover, the figures might show 175,000 people out of work entirely but there were many more, especially in meatworks, who were not working enough hours and needed more.

He claimed Finance Minister Bill English had failed to offer support to Mataura meatworkers in his own electorate.

"We haven't seen hide or hair of (him)," he said.

Invercargill National MP Eric Roy defended the Government's record, saying Southland and Otago were vulnerable to declines in international export markets.

"There was bound to be a reaction in terms of employment," he said.

The Government was trying to make it easier to do business and allow business to create jobs, but was being affected by the international situation, he said.

"International markets have not moved in the way we would have expected and that is what is limiting us . . . the course we have been pursuing is the right one . . . this is simply a reflection of the perilous state [of the global economy."

The Household Labour Force Survey results are based on a representative sample of 15,000 households throughout New Zealand. The survey is designed to produce reliable estimates of the numbers of people employed, unemployed, and not in the labour force.

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alex.fensome@stl.co.nz

TOUGH TIMES

Some of the job losses in Southland since May: 100 jobs from the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter 70 jobs from the Blue Sky Meats works 65 jobs from Alliance Mataura meatworks, with 260 displaced and offered redundancy 21 jobs from The Southland Times press room 12 jobs from the Conservation Department office in Invercargill 8 jobs from the Takitimu coal mine in Nightcaps 8 jobs from Southland Sand and Gravel

- The Southland Times

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