16,900 unemployed people in Canterbury
Canterbury unemployment remains significantly lower than the national level, helped by work created by the earthquake rebuild.
Unemployment fell to 4.9 per cent (unadjusted) in Canterbury for the December quarter, down from 5.2 per cent for the September quarter.
It was down from 6.5 per cent in the June quarter, Statistics New Zealand figures released today show.
At the national level, there was also a fall in unemployment to 6.9 per cent (seasonally adjusted) from 7.3 per cent in the September quarter.
There are now 16,900 people unemployed in Canterbury, down from 17,400 three months ago and down from 21,500 in the June quarter, a recent peak.
Unemployment numbers in Canterbury were up to 22,800 in the March 2011 quarter after the February 22, 2011, quake, although numbers fell for the rest of 2011 before pushing up to the June 2012 figure of 21,500.
The significant improvement in national unemployment to 6.9 per cent was because fewer people were working or looking for work and more people remaining outside the labour market for purposes such as student study, Statistics New Zealand said.
The number of people in the labour force was weaker in the December quarter, with falls in both the number of people employed and unemployed. The labour force participation rate fell 1.2 percentage points over the quarter to 67.2 per cent.
Nationally, the number of people outside the labour force had a large increase over the quarter, with more people in the older age groups not in the labour force. This was partly because of an ageing population.
Westpac economists said the ''household labour force survey'' (HLFS) threw up another oddball assessment of the labour market.
There was a fall in unemployment, but a sharp decline in employment.
''The net result was negative market reaction, but we are sceptical of the survey results,'' the economists said.
''Our assessment of the labour market has not really changed - it is still weak - but we do not believe that it has suddenly got sharply better or worse. Consequently, we would not be surprised to see the market reaction moderating over the day.''
Other labour market assessments have not been nearly so weak. For example, in today's HLFS, fulltime employment was up 0.4 per cent and hours worked were up 0.3 per cent.
In Tuesday's quarterly employment survey, fulltime-equivalent employment rose 0.4 per cent.
Labour-related surveys have been soft but have not taken any disastrous lurch lower, the bank said.