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Household Labour Force Survey Population Rebase: December 2008 quarter (Includes the introduction of Māori benchmarks)
Embargoed until 10:45am  –  20 April 2009

The Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS) estimates are updated periodically to account for the latest population estimates following each population census. As part of the rebase, historical HLFS results are revised using the updated weighting regime. This revision preserves the integrity of the HLFS statistical time series, ensuring consistency in past and contemporary trends and movements.

This release reports on the results of the latest update, using population estimates based on the 2006 Census of Population and Dwellings and introducing the Māori benchmarks into the updated weights. Series from the HLFS have been revised back to the start of the survey, the March 1986 quarter, due to the inclusion of Māori benchmarks, in addition to incorporating the revised population estimates from 2001 onwards.

The movements in the key HLFS series from the March 1986 quarter to the December 2000 quarter are attributable to the introduction of Māori benchmarks in the weights. Movements starting from the March 2001 quarter are due to both the introduction of Māori benchmarks and revisions to population estimates based on the 2006 Census.

Impact of introducing Māori benchmarks

The inclusion of population benchmarks for the Māori ethnic group was aimed at improving the quality and time series consistency of labour force estimates for Māori. Other surveys, such as the Household Economic Survey and the Survey of Dynamics and Motivations for Migration in New Zealand, also use ethnic benchmarks in their estimates.

In this rebase, ethnic benchmarks for Māori have been introduced in the updated weights. As a result, the average proportion of Māori only in the total working-age population (WAP) for the period December 2007 quarter to the December 2008 quarter increased to 6.8 percent, up 1.3 percentage points based on the single/combination method of output. The upward revision to the number of Māori WAP is 46,800. During the same period, the average proportion of European/Māori in the total WAP also increased, up 0.9 percentage points to 5.2 percent. On the other hand, the average proportion of European only, Pacific peoples only, Asian only, Middle Eastern/Latin American/African (MELAA) only, and ‘other’ ethnicity only in the total WAP decreased as a result of introducing the Māori benchmarks.

Historical time series patterns have been preserved in this revision to the HLFS. The revisions resulted in some expected movements in the main labour force aggregate series (ie employment, unemployment, and not in the labour force) and shifts in the level of the unemployment rates and labour force participation rates.

Future releases

Following this rebase, HLFS results for the March 2009 quarter (release date 7 May 2009) and onwards will continue to use population estimates based on the 2006 Census.

Impact on key Household Labour Force Survey series 

The revisions had an upward effect on the unemployment rate as seen in the graph below where the originally published and revised series run parallel to each other. The revisions were mainly brought about by the introduction of Māori benchmarks; the rebase alone would result in negligible movements in the unemployment rate.

Graph, Umemployment Rate - Seasonally Adjusted.

There were no differences between the old and revised WAP series from the start of the survey series until the December 2000 quarter as the population data, being based on previous censuses, was not revised.

From the March 2001 quarter to the March 2006 quarter, the gap between the old and new series was narrow (see graph below) as the two have been blended, one based on the 2001 Census taken forward, and the other based on the 2006 Census taken back. The difference between the originally published and revised series increases with time.

Graph, Working - Age Population.

The HLFS level estimates for the other key series are affected by increases in the total WAP and by the inclusion of Māori benchmarks (see graphs for the employed, unemployed, and the not in the labour force (NILF)). The effect of the rebase and the introduction of Māori benchmarks differ for each series, though the quarter-on-quarter movements are largely unchanged. 

The introduction of Māori benchmarks resulted in a general downward shift of the overall level of employment, while the population rebase had an upward effect. As a result, the overall employment series is revised downwards until the December 2002 quarter, but upwards from the March 2003 quarter. From that point, the upward effect of the rebase is larger than the downward effect caused by the introduction of the Māori benchmarks, resulting in a net upward revision. 

Graph, Employed - Seasonally Adjusted.

The unemployment series had a general upward revision. A relatively small component of this change is due to the population rebase from March 2001 onwards, while the change is otherwise attributable to the introduction of Māori benchmarks. 

Graph, Umemployed - Seasonally Adjusted.

Historically, Māori have had relatively low levels of participation compared to the total WAP. The introduction of Māori benchmarks resulted in an increase in the total number of NILF. However, this difference has decreased over time so that the upward effect on NILF decreases in later quarters. The population rebase also resulted in an upward shift of NILF, and this is the dominant effect from December 2005.

Graph, Not in the Labour Force - Seasonally Adjusted

The labour force participation rate pattern shows a downward level shift, with revisions being larger in the earlier to the middle part of the series. Similar to shifts in the unemployment rate, most of the revision is due to the introduction of Māori benchmarks. 

Graph, Labour Force - Participation Rate - Seasonally Adjusted.

Impact on estimates from the New Zealand Income Survey 

The population rebase and the introduction of Māori benchmarks will also have an impact on estimates from the New Zealand Income Survey (NZIS). The NZIS is a regular supplement to the HLFS and has been conducted every June quarter since 1997. The NZIS collects data on wages and salaries, self-employment, government transfers, investment income, and other transfer income. 

The NZIS will be released separately, on a date to be announced later.


For technical information contact: 
Lourdes Vivo or Mariana Gledhill
Wellington 04 931 4600

Next release...

Household Labour Force Survey: March 2009 quarter will be released on 7 May 2009.

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