New Zealand Unemployment Rate Falls to Lowest Since December 2008

By Ben Collins Features Dow Jones Newswires

New Zealand's unemployment rate fell again in the second quarter, sliding to 4.8% from 4.9% three months earlier, to its lowest level since December 2008, Statistics New Zealand said Wednesday.

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"In the June 2017 quarter, 3,000 fewer people were unemployed," labor market and households senior manager Diane Ramsay said in a statement. "The unemployment rate for women fell to 4.9%, with 10,000 fewer women unemployed--the lowest it's been since March 2009." In contrast, the male unemployment rate rose to 4.7%.

The jobless rate came in below the 4.9% forecast by economists polled by The Wall Street Journal. The labor force participation rate was 70%, compared with 70.6% in the previous quarter.

The number of people employed in New Zealand was up 3.1% on year in the second quarter, but down 0.2% compared with the previous three months.

New Zealand's agriculture-rich economy is growing strongly, supported by all-time high migration flows, solid commodity prices and record-low interest rates.

Business confidence is also strong, while homeowners are enjoying wealth gains through soaring property prices.

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The jobless rate had dropped sharply from 5.2% in the last three months of 2016, indicating a tightening of the labor market. But some economists say the labor market still can't be characterized as tight outside the construction industry, and that a lower jobless rate is needed before wage growth gains momentum.

The latest data showed that private-sector wages rose 1.6% in the second quarter from a year earlier, and were 0.4% higher than three months earlier. Wages grew 1.5% on year in the first quarter.

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

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 01, 2017 19:26 ET (23:26 GMT)