NZ Employment Growth Heading into COVID-19

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Stats NZ reported that the number of employed people rose by 19,000 over the March quarter, while the number of unemployed was up by only 5,000. The employment rate rose to 67.5%, while the unemployment rate also rose slightly from 4% to 4.2%, remaining near its lowest levels in a decade.

Wages were also rising at an annual rate of 3.6%, with average ordinary time hourly earnings up to $33.14. This was well above inflation at 2.5%.

Commenting on the statistics, Finance Minister Grant Robertson said: “The numbers show that … businesses have the confidence to increase employment and invest in their workforces by raising wages.

“Obviously much has changed in the last six weeks in New Zealand. While these numbers reflect the position New Zealand was in before the worst of COVID-19, they show we were in a strong position. The amazing work all New Zealanders have done through Level 4 and Level 3 to stay home and break the chain of transmission now means we’re well-placed to get a head start on our economic recovery.”

The Government’s focus is on cushioning the blow of COVID-19 on the economy by supporting businesses with cashflow and helping workers maintain or find employment.

“We do know that this global 1-in-100 year health and economic crisis will contribute to unemployment rising further,” continued Minister Robertson. “The investments we’ve already put in place are designed to minimise these impacts, and support those who are out of work to find new employment.

“We went hard and early in our economic response, putting in place the wage-subsidy scheme to protect jobs and incomes. The scheme has paid out more than NZ$10.6 billion, covering the wages of more than 1.7 million workers.

“Our $3 billion tax refund scheme put into law last week will start paying out in coming days to support viable businesses with cashflow and costs like rent. This is being complemented by the Small Business Cashflow Loan scheme, the Business Finance Guarantee and a range of tax measures to encourage investment.”