Christchurch work force grows nearly 16,000

Thousands more people were employed in Canterbury in the three months to March, while more job hunters in the region has increased unemployment as well, the latest Statistics New Zealand figures show.

The Canterbury unemployment rate rose 0.5 of a percentage point in the three months to March, meaning 2400 more people were without a job than at the end of 2011.

The number of people employed during the first quarter of 2012 rose by 15,900 since the three months to December.

Although the unemployment rate in Canterbury for the March quarter was 5.5 per cent, an increase on the previous quarter, it is lower than it was a year ago at 6.4 per cent.

There are currently 18,800 people looking for work and 325,600 in jobs.

The rise in both employed and unemployed people was due to an extra 18,300 people who joined the labour force (people employed or actively looking for work) during the quarter.

The Canterbury figures are seasonally unadjusted.

The construction industry employed 32,600 people in the March quarter, a 6400 jump since the three months to December, and up from 21,800 a year ago.

Retail employment has shrunk 11,100 over the year to 46,600.

Information technology and communications, heralded as a possible booster industry for the city's rebuild, has seen its employment fall consistently each quarter over the past year to 2900 in March. At the 2011 March quarter, IT and communications employment was 4300.

Nationwide, the unemployment rate is 6.7 per cent, a surprise jump from a revised 6.4 per cent last quarter.

Some economists had expected the unemployment rate to stay steady or fall slightly to about 6.2 per cent.

Earlier figures put the December quarter unemployment rate at 6.3 per cent, but that was revised up in the latest Statistics New Zealand figures to 6.4 per cent.

An 18,000 rise in the national labour force during the three months to March 31 saw 9000 more unemployed in the March quarter, while the other half moved into jobs.

The number of part-time workers jumped 2.5 per cent in the quarter, while fulltime numbers fell 0.2 per cent.

The rise in unemployment reflected more women without work, while no more men were unemployed, Statistics NZ said.

"We saw increases in both the number of people in work and the number out there looking for work in the March 2012 quarter. This meant participation in the labour force rose to the highest level since its peak just over three years ago," industry and labour statistics manager Diane Ramsay said.

The Press