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Household Labour Force Survey: December 2011 quarter
Embargoed until 10:45am  –  09 February 2012
Commentary

Unemployment rate falls but employment growth is slow

The unemployment rate fell 0.3 percentage points in the December 2011 quarter, down to 6.3 percent. The number of people unemployed decreased by 7,000.

The number of people employed rose by 3,000, while the employment rate remained at 63.9 percent. The flat employment rate highlights that the increase in employment is just keeping pace with the increasing size of the working-age population.

Over the quarter, full-time employment decreased by 13,000 (0.8 percent), while part-time employment increased by 15,000 (3.0 percent). The decrease in full-time employment followed a sharp increase in male full-time employment during the September 2011 quarter.

Similarly, the decrease in actual hours worked over the quarter followed a large increase in the September 2011 quarter. Both actual and usual hours worked fell in the December 2011 quarter. Actual hours worked fell 1.4 percent and usual hours worked fell 0.9 percent.

The labour force participation rate fell 0.2 percentage points over the quarter, down to 68.2 percent. This reflects a decrease of 3,000 people in the labour force and a corresponding increase of 11,000 in those not in the labour force.

In annual unadjusted terms, the Canterbury region has seen a significant decrease in the labour force participation rate since the December 2010 quarter. The Auckland region had significant increases in both the number of people employed and the employment rate.

 

Diagram, Labour market diagram December 2011 quarter

 

Female unemployment falls

In seasonally adjusted terms, unemployment decreased by 7,000 people (4.2 percent) during the December 2011 quarter.

This decrease reflected a fall of 8,000 (10.1 percent) in the number of women unemployed. In contrast, men in unemployment increased, with the number of men unemployed up 1,000 (1.6 percent).

As a result of the different labour market outcomes for men and women, the difference between male and female unemployment rates has decreased. The unemployment rate for women decreased 0.7 percentage points to 6.3 percent, while the male unemployment rate increased 0.1 percentage points to 6.4 percent. At 6.3 percent, the unemployment rate for women is the lowest female unemployment rate since the June 2009 quarter.

 Graph, unemployment rate by sex, seasonally adjusted, quarterly, December 2007 to December 2011.    Graph, unemployment rate, seasonally adjusted and trend, quarterly, December 2007 to December 2011.

The trend series

The trend series shows unemployment decreased by 3,000 (2.0 percent), to 152,000 people in the December 2011 quarter. The sex difference was muted in comparison with the seasonally adjusted series, with male unemployment flat over the quarter and female unemployment decreasing by 3,000 (4.3 percent).

Refer to the Data quality section of this release for more information about trend series.

Unadjusted annual movements

In the year to December 2011, the unemployment rate for all people who identified with the Māori ethnic group (including those who may also have identified with other groups) remained flat, at 13.4 percent.

Low employment growth

During the December 2011 quarter, seasonally adjusted employment increased by 3,000 people (0.1 percent) while the employment rate remained at 63.9 percent for the third consecutive quarter. This highlights that employment has been increasing at the same rate as the working-age population.

As with unemployment, there was a divergence between male and female employment over the quarter. The number of women employed increased by 7,000 (0.7 percent), while the number of men employed decreased by 4,000 (0.4 percent). The employment rate for women increased to 58.4 percent, while the male employment rate decreased to 69.7 percent.

Full-time employment decreased by 13,000 (0.8 percent) during the quarter. Over the same period, part-time employment increased by 15,000 (3.0 percent). The number of men in full-time employment fell 1.6 percent this quarter, while men in part-time employment rose 7.1 percent. The fall in male full-time employment followed a large rise in the September 2011 quarter. In contrast, the number of women in both full-time and part-time employment rose this quarter, up 0.4 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively.

Since the December 2010 quarter, employment has increased by 34,000 (1.6 percent). On an annual basis, female employment increased more than male employment, up 19,000 and 15,000 people, respectively.

 Graph, full-time employment, seasonally adjusted, quarterly, December 2007 to December 2011.  Graph, part-time employment, seasonally adjusted, quarterly, December 2007 to December 2011.

The trend series

Employment in the trend series saw an increase of 4,000 (0.2 percent) in the December 2011 quarter. Unlike the divergence seen in the male and female seasonally adjusted series, the trend series showed a rise in employment for both men and women.

Unadjusted annual movements

The 7.1 percent rise in male part-time employment was coupled with a 6.8 percent increase in the number of men underemployed over the December 2011 year. Over the same period, the number of women underemployed fell 2.0 percent. People who are underemployed are individuals who are in part-time employment and would prefer to work more hours.

The annual increase in the number of women employed was especially noticeable in the education and training industry. The total number of people employed in this industry saw a significant rise in employment over the year –19,400 people (10.8 percent).

During the December 2011 year, there were significant increases in employment for people aged 30–34 years, 50–54 years, 55–59 years, and those aged 65 years and over. In contrast, those aged 35–39 years had a significant decrease in employment.

Both the level of employment and the employment rate increased significantly in the Auckland region. The number of people employed in Auckland increased by 50,700 (7.6 percent), to 713,400 during the December 2011 year. Employment in the Tasman, Nelson, Marlborough, and West Coast region had a significant increase of 10,800 ( 12.3 percent), while the Gisborne and Hawke's Bay region had a significant decrease in employment of 7,400 (7.2 percent).

Total hours worked falls after sharp rise last quarter

In seasonally adjusted terms, both the actual and usual hours worked decreased in the December 2011 quarter. The total number of actual hours worked fell 1.4 percent, to 73,776,000 hours, while the total number of usual hours fell 0.9 percent, to 79,673,000 hours.

A person's actual hours worked are the number of hours they worked in the reference week (including overtime). Usual hours worked are the number of hours a person normally works in a week (including overtime).

The decrease in actual hours was in part exaggerated by a sharp increase in actual hours in the September 2011 quarter. This was particularly apparent in the Auckland region.

The decrease in both actual and usual hours also reflected the fall in full-time employment and rise in part-time employment.

Graph, total actual hours worked each week, quarterly, December 2007 to December 2011.  

Lower labour force participation

Although the employment rate remained flat, at 63.9 percent, the seasonally adjusted labour force participation rate decreased by 0.2 percentage points to 68.2 percent during the December 2011 quarter. The labour force participation rates for both men and women decreased, by 0.4 and 0.1 percentage points, respectively.

In the December 2011 quarter, the number of people not in the labour force increased by 11,000 (1.0 percent). Men not in the labour force increased by a greater amount than women, up 8,000 (1.8 percent) and 3,000 (0.5 percent), respectively.

In unadjusted terms, those not in the labour force who are in education increased by 3,400 (1.4 percent) over the December 2011 year. The number of youth (people aged 15–24 years) who are not in the labour force but are in education increased by 8,600 (4.4 percent) during the year.

Since the December 2010 quarter, the labour force participation rate increased significantly for those aged 65 years and over, to reach 19.5 percent.

Graph, labour force participation rate, quarterly, December 2007 to December 2011.

Canterbury still influencing national movements

Annually, the labour market in the Canterbury region is still showing very different movements to ‘national excluding Canterbury’ estimates.

Unadjusted annual changes for the December 2011 quarter   
  Annual change 
Canterbury National excluding Canterbury  National
Unemployment rate -1.0 -0.2 -0.3
Employment rate -1.9 +0.7 +0.4
Labour force participation rate -2.7 +0.7 +0.2
Unemployed -24.0% +0.1% -3.2%
Employed  -8.3% +3.3%  +1.5%
Not in the labour force  +3.3% -0.1% +0.4%
Actual hours  -9.6%  +2.4%  +0.5%

Over the December 2011 year, the Canterbury region had a significant decrease in the labour force participation rate, down 2.7 percentage points to 68.0 percent. The labour force participation rate for ‘national excluding Canterbury’ increased, up 0.7 percentage points to 68.8 percent.

In the year to December 2011, the decrease in employment in Canterbury was mirrored in a decrease in both full-time and part-time employment. The drop in full-time employment was larger than that in part-time employment. By sex, the fall in employment for women was larger than that for men.

By industry, the largest fall in employment was in the retail trade, accommodation, and food services industry group, down 11,700 (20.6 percent). Most of this decrease was in the accommodation and food services part of this group. Employment in the construction industry decreased by 4,000 (13.4 percent) in Canterbury over the year, down from a 30,200 peak in the December 2010 quarter.

Although the Canterbury region had a decrease in the employment rate over the year, at 64.6 percent it is higher than that of both ‘national excluding Canterbury’ and New Zealand as a whole. Likewise, at 5.0 percent, the Canterbury region’s unemployment rate is still lower than both the ‘national excluding Canterbury’ and the national rates.

Supplementary tables with detailed data for the Canterbury region are included in this release. These are similar to tables 3, 4, 7, 8, 9, 11, and 14 from the main tables. Data in the tables for the Canterbury region are all unadjusted.

To view these tables, see the Excel tables in the 'Downloads' box.

Proportion of youth not in employment, education, or training increases

The youth (aged 15–24 years) not in employment, education, or training (NEET) rate has been introduced into the HLFS official estimates. The youth NEET rate is calculated as the total number of youth who are NEET as a proportion of the total youth working-age population. Refer to the Data quality section for more information.

In the December 2011 quarter, the seasonally adjusted youth NEET rate increased 0.7 percentage points, to 13.1 percent. The 15–19-years age group saw a larger increase than the 20–24-years age group, up 1.3 and 0.1 percentage points, respectively.

Longer time series

The following graphs show the HLFS series for the employment rate, the labour force participation rate, and the unemployment rate over a 15-year period. A complete time series from March 1986 onwards is available on request.

 

 Graph, employment rate, quarterly, December 1996 to December 2011.

 Graph, labour force participation rate, quarterly, December 1996 to December 2011.

Graph, unemployment rate, quarterly, December 1996 to December 2011.

For more detailed data see the Excel tables in the ‘Downloads’ box.

September 2011 quarter estimates have been revised. For more information, see the Revisions section.

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