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Robertson should apologise, Key says

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 17/08/2016

Labour's Grant Robertson should apologise for suggesting there was political interference in the latest unemployment figures, Prime Minister John Key says.

Statistics NZ has changed the way it calculates the unemployment rate, which has brought it down by a small margin, and Mr Robertson on Tuesday said the government had "massaged" the figures.

Government statistician Liz MacPherson strongly rejected that, saying she was fiercely protective of her statutory independence.

Mr Key says Mr Robertson, a former public servant, should have known that.

"We can have a ding dong discussion about what those stats mean ... but attacking the chief statistician is a bit below the belt," he told reporters on Wednesday.

Asked whether he thought Mr Robertson should apologise, he replied "absolutely".

Mr Robertson says he accepts Ms MacPherson's assurance of the department's independence.

"I absolutely accept the chief statistician's assurance that the changes were made by Statistics NZ," he said.

"My point is that we have a government with a track record of misusing this data, and they're trying to take the credit for a statistical change."

The change means people looking at job offers on website are no longer counted as actively looking for work.

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