New Zealand Unemployment Rate Falls to 4.9% in First Quarter

By Ben Collins Features Dow Jones Newswires

New Zealand's unemployment rate fell more than expected in the first quarter, to a seasonally-adjusted 4.9% from 5.2% three months earlier, Statistics New Zealand said Wednesday.

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The New Zealand dollar rose sharply on the data, which will also put pressure on the central bank to bring forward its timeline for raising the official cash rate.

Unemployed people are those who are available to work and who had either actively sought work or had a new job to start within the next four weeks.

"The unemployment rate for men fell from 4.8% to 4.2%, making it the lowest rate since the December 2008 quarter. However, the unemployment rate for women was unchanged," labor and income statistics manager Mark Gordon said in a statement.

The reading on unemployment was below the 5.2% expected by economists polled by The Wall Street Journal. The labor force participation rate was 70.6%. Economists had expected a participation rate of 70.5%.

The number of people employed in New Zealand was up 1.2% in the first quarter, from the previous three months, also higher than the 0.8% expected by economists.

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This data comprise the fourth set of figures to come out since the survey was revamped earlier in the year.

New Zealand's agriculture-rich economy is growing strongly, supported by migration flows, which on the latest figures, are at an all-time high, as well as solid commodity prices and record-low interest rates.

Business confidence is also strong while home owners are enjoying wealth gains through soaring property prices.

Write to Ben Collins at ben.collins@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 02, 2017 19:20 ET (23:20 GMT)