Rebuild boosts Canterbury jobs growth

CECILE MEIER AND JAMES WEIR
Last updated 13:00 05/02/2014

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The unemployment rate for Canterbury has plunged to its lowest level in six years, Statistics New Zealand figures out today show.

The Household Labour Force Survey for the December quarter shows the unemployment rate for the region dropped to 3.4 per cent, well below the September quarter's 4.2 per cent, and a 26 per cent fall from last year's 4.9 per cent.

This means 4700 fewer people were unemployed compared to the December 2012 quarter.

According to the Quarterly Employment Survey for the December quarter, Canterbury had 9400 more jobs than in the previous year.

Industries with the largest job growth in Canterbury were construction (up 29.1 per cent) and manufacturing (up 11.3 per cent).

Together, these industries accounted for more than three-quarters of the total rise in filled jobs in the region.

Canterbury's job growth was behind Auckland's 15,700 new jobs, but ahead of Wellington's 6400.

Nationwide, the unemployment rate was down to 6 per cent for the December quarter. This compared with 6.2 per cent in the September quarter. Wage rises remained modest.

The Wellington unemployment rate was steady at 6 per cent in the December quarter, the same as the September quarter, but down from a recent peak of 7.9 per cent in December 2012.

Auckland's unemployment rate also improved, down to 6.3 per cent from 6.7 per cent three months before.

Most market watchers expected national unemployment to tick down slightly in the latest quarter as the economy improved, despite the rapidly rising net migration to New Zealand adding to the supply of workers.

The Reserve Bank also expected an unemployment rate of 6 per cent, when it issued its December monetary policy statement.

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.

Unemployment has bounced around, sometimes wildly, between 6 per cent and 7 per cent in recent years. It has remained stubbornly high since the end of the global financial crisis, having shot up from a low of just 3.5 per cent at the end of 2007, a 20-year low.

During 2008 and 2009, the weak domestic economy led to job numbers flattening and then falling. As a result, the unemployment rate rose fast.

Other figures released today included the closely watched labour cost index - up 0.4 per cent in the quarter and steady at 1.6 per cent.

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The private sector LCI was up 0.6 per cent to 1.7 per cent for the year, exactly in line with economists' forecasts.

BY THE NUMBERS

Unemployment rate:

- Canterbury: 3.4 per cent

- Wellington: 6 per cent

- Auckland: 6.3 per cent

- Nationwide: 6 per cent

New jobs in the December 2013 quarter compared to the year before:

- Canterbury: 9400

- Wellington: 6400

- Auckland: 15,700

- The Press

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