Rebuild slashes unemployment

CECILE MEIER
Last updated 05:00 07/08/2014

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Jerome Kimura came to Christchurch for a job - joining the ranks of people finding earthquake rebuild work and forcing the unemployment rate down to 2.8 per cent.

The site engineer from Masdhterton works for McConnell Dowell.

He had done council consultancy work before and wanted to gain experience in construction engineering.

Recruitment company Turbo Staff welcomed Kimura's application, offering to pick him up at the airport on arrival in Christchurch and providing him with free short-term accommodation.

''I'm single and don't have children so it was not too hard to relocate,'' Kimura said.

He had applied to other jobs in Auckland and Wellington, but said the job in Christchurch had the most attractive salary.

Kimura is not the only one to seize opportunities in the region.

New figures show Canterbury's unemployment rate is the country's lowest, at 2.8 per cent, down from 3.3 per cent in the last quarter.

Ministry of Social Development figures show 157 people throughout the country had so far taken advantage of the 3K to Christchurch scheme Work and Income offered to clients living outside Christchurch.

Nationwide, the unemployment rate fell to 5.6 per cent in the three months to June, according to Statistics New Zealand's household labour force survey. This was the lowest unemployment rate since March 2009.  

''Over the year, Canterbury contributed the most to national employment growth, accounting for almost half,'' Statistics NZ said. 

Labour employment spokesman Grant Robertson said Christchurch's employment figures were skewing national numbers.

''Disaster recovery is not an economic plan. Excluding Canterbury, the overall figure rises to around 6 per cent,'' he  said.

Despite the fall, 137,000 people were still out of work nationwide, 32,000 more than when National took office in 2008, he said.

''Many New Zealanders are not seeing the benefit of the supposed improvement in the economy. Average weekly earnings have actually decreased in the last quarter, and 43 per cent of wage earners have not seen a pay rise in the last year.''

The labour cost index, which measures wage inflation, rose by 0.5 per cent in the June 2014 quarter, and by 1.7 per cent over the year to June 2014. The 50 cent increase in the minimum wage to $14.25 an hour from April 1 boosted the figure.

A Westpac report said excluding the minimum wage hike, wage inflation picked up but hasn't broken out of its recent range. 

BY THE NUMBERS

2.8 per cent Canterbury's unemployment rate, down from last quarter's 3.3 per cent.

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5.6 per cent National unemployment rate down from last quarter's 5.9 per cent.

37,200 new jobs in Canterbury in the year to June 2014.

Sectors with the biggest increases in Canterbury in the year to June 2014:

+ 12,400 retail trade, accommodation, and food services industry.

+ 10,300 construction.

+ 9,900 manufacturing and electricity.

- The Press

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