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Employment figures better than expected

NZN 16/08/2016 Paul McBeth

New Zealand's unemployment rate fell more than expected in the second quarter as Statistics New Zealand adopted a new way of measuring the labour market to bring the country in line with international practices, and while a growing economy continued to support jobs growth. The kiwi dollar jumped above 73 US cents after the release.

The jobless rate declined to a seasonally adjusted 5.1 per cent or 131,000 people, in the June quarter from a revised 5.2 per cent rate in March, the government department said in a statement. Economists polled by Reuters predicted a rate of 5.3 per cent, though the new methodology means comparisons with earlier periods aren't easy to make. The participation rate of 69.7 per cent was up from 68.8 per cent in March.

Statistics NZ redeveloped the household labour force survey - its benchmark labour market series - to better identify self-employed people, improve questions about undertaking paid work, and including members of the armed forces.

At the same time, a strong economy has meant the labour market has been improving, and the government department expects to get a better sense of the nation's employment picture in the next two or three quarters.

The kiwi dollar climbed as high as 73.22 US cents after the data was released, and was recently at 72.91 cents from 72.82 cents immediately before.

"The redeveloped HLFS presents a more accurate and complete picture of the New Zealand labour market," labour and income statistics manager Mark Gordon said.

"The latest estimates are more in line with the current state of the labour market. However, comparisons with previous estimates will not always be straightforward and should be made with caution."

Wednesday's figures show employment rose 2.4 per cent to 2.46 million people in the quarter, for an annual increase of 4.5 per cent, though that yearly figure was partly due to the changes in methodology.

The working-age population rose 0.9 per cent to 3.72 million people in the quarter, and was 2.7 per cent higher in the year as the country goes through a period of record inbound net migration.

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