New Zealand Unemployment at Lowest Level Since Financial Crisis

By Ben Collins Features Dow Jones Newswires

New Zealand's unemployment rate fell again in the third quarter, sliding to 4.6% from 4.8% three months earlier, to its lowest level since the global financial crisis, Statistics New Zealand said Wednesday.

Continue Reading Below

The South Pacific country's jobless rate came in below the 4.7% forecast by economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal. The unemployment rate is at its lowest since the December 2008 quarter, when it was 4.4%.

The labor force participation rate was 71.1%, up from 70% in the previous quarter.

"This is the highest labour force participation rate on record for the household labour force survey, and reflects more people entering employment," labor market and household statistics senior manager Diane Ramsay said in a statement. "This is in line with strong quarterly working-age population growth and near record-high annual net migration."

The number of people employed in New Zealand was up 4.2% on year in the second quarter, and 2.2% compared with the previous three months.

The jobs figures will be of particular interest to the new coalition government led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's center-left Labour party, which wants to give New Zealand's central bank an employment target.

Continue Reading Below

New Zealand's jobless rate has 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.

New Zealand's agriculture-rich economy is growing strongly, supported by high migration flows, solid commodity prices and record-low interest rates, while homeowners are enjoying wealth gains through soaring property prices, which have cooled lately but remain high.

Still, business confidence this week fell to its lowest level in two-years after New Zealand's recent general election, which eventually saw a Labour-led coalition replace the former center-right government, which had been in power for nearly a decade.

The latest data showed that private-sector wages rose 1.9% in the third quarter from a year earlier, and were 0.7% higher than three months earlier.

It is the first round of figures to take into account a deal made by the previous National government which saw care and support workers paid more, and this is likely part of the reason for the increase.

The new government wants to raise New Zealand's minimum wage and reform some workplace relations laws, and this could boost wage growth further.

After the release of the data the New Zealand dollar rose to US$0.6885 from US$0.6848.

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

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 31, 2017 18:22 ET (22:22 GMT)