By John Macdonald
New Zealand’s unemployment rate rose to 6.4 percent in the quarter ending June, up from 6.2 percent the previous quarter despite signs of improvement in the labor market, the government’s statistics agency announced Wednesday.
Employment was growing slowly and unemployment was down from a year ago, but up slightly since the start of the year, while wage inflation continued to be restrained at 1.7 percent in the year ending June, according to Statistics New Zealand.
Employment rose by 0.4 percent in the June quarter, and in the year ending June, the number of people employed rose 0.7 percent, while demand for workers from established businesses rose 1.9 percent.
“This growth in employment lines up with the moderate economic recovery we’ve seen. Employment was falling over 2012 while growth in economic activity was slower,” industry and labor statistics manager Diane Ramsay said in a statement.
Employment growth continued to be led by Christchurch and the surrounding Canterbury region, where reconstruction is underway after the earthquakes of the last three years.
Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce said the data showed the economy created an extra 65,400 jobs over the last two years. The economy registered a 2.4-percent growth in the year to the end of March.
“While unemployment grew slightly in the quarter, it remains below the 6.8 per cent of a year ago. The annual trend is of an improving overall labor market across the country,” Joyce said in a statement.
The main opposition Labor Party estimated that unemployment would have been at 6.7 percent without the Canterbury rebuild.
“At a time when there is clearly a huge amount of work in Christchurch, these figures should be significantly better,” Labour employment spokesman Grant Robertson said in a statement. Enditem