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Job figures just tweaked numbers: Labour

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 17/08/2016

A drop in unemployment figures is the product of tinkering with numbers, not more jobs, according to the opposition.

But the government says the economy is creating work.

Figures released on Wednesday by Statistics New Zealand show New Zealand's unemployment rate is now 5.1 per cent, down from 5.2 per cent three months ago.

Labour's Grant Robertson says the fall is due to a change in reporting method, which now no longer counts people who only look for jobs online as "actively seeking work".

People must now, for example, contact potential employers or employment agencies to be considered job seekers.

Mr Robertson said it was dangerous to compare the figures and there was nothing to celebrate.

"This reclassification does not mean that a single person who is out of work and wants to work now has a job," he said.

"The truth is the government is not doing enough to get people into jobs, especially in the regions. Even on these figures Northland has an unemployment rate of 10 per cent."

Labour's figures suggested 131,000 people were still out of work and 342,000 weren't working enough, he said.

Statistics New Zealand's labour statistics manager Mark Gordon said while the changes would make the survey more accurate long-term, they made for unclear comparisons to other recent figures.

"The redeveloped [survey] presents a more accurate and complete picture of the New Zealand labour market. The latest estimates are more in line with the current state of the labour force," he said.

"However, comparisons with previous estimates will not always be straightforward and should be made with caution."

Employment Minister Steven Joyce said the figures were the product of a strong economy.

"There were 58,000 more people in employment over the last quarter. 327,000 more jobs have now been created in New Zealand since the worst times of the Global Financial Crisis, that's a 15 per cent overall increase," he said.

The changes to the survey brought New Zealand in line with other countries, he said.

Council of Trade Union's economist Bill Rosenberg said unemployment needed to get closer to 2007's 3.3 per cent.

There needed to be more of a government focus on large-scale job creation, he said.

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