Jobs market weakness 'shocking'

The job market is "shockingly weak", according to some economists, with employment slumping 1 per cent or 23,000 in the December quarter as part-time employment crumbled.

It was the third quarterly fall in total employment and the biggest quarterly drop since early 2009. The fall in jobs hit women hardest - they accounted for 20,000 out of the 23,000 drop in figures issued yesterday.

The New Zealand dollar initially fell half a US cent on the household labour force survey, ending the day at US83.59c, down from US84.18c the previous day.

The weak jobs report was seen as another sign that the Reserve Bank would be in no rush to raise the official cash rate, with inflation at extremely low levels.

The jobs market has effectively been stagnant for three years, with 11.5 per cent of the workforce wanting to work or work more hours in the past year.

ANZ Bank economists said that while they were sceptical about parts of the volatile jobs and unemployment report, the overall picture was a weak labour market. "This confirms the Reserve Bank will not be raising the official cash rate for a while, despite a lively housing market and rising credit growth."

In yet another confusing quarterly report, the official unemployment rate improved much more than expected in the December quarter to 6.9 per cent per cent, with some 163,000 people out of work.

The unemployment rate was 7.3 per cent in the September quarter. But the improvement was not driven by more jobs, but by more people moving out of the workforce, either young people staying in school or older people retiring early.

Deutsche Bank economist Darren Gibbs said at face value the quarterly figures showed a job market that was "shockingly weak" after a 6 per cent fall in part-time work.

WORK WOES December quarter

Unemployment : 6.9 per cent (7.3 per cent September quarter)

Employment: down 1 per cent (23,000) (down 0.4 per cent in September quarter)

Participation rate: 67.2 per cent (68.4 per cent in September quarter)

Source: Statistics NZ

Taranaki Daily News