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Household Labour Force Survey: December 2013 quarter
Embargoed until 10:45am  –  05 February 2014
Commentary

Overview

In the December 2013 quarter, the employment rate increased 0.3 percentage points to 64.7 percent, in seasonally adjusted terms. The number of people employed increased by 24,000.

The unemployment rate decreased over the quarter, down 0.2 percentage points to 6.0 percent. This decrease reflected 2,000 fewer people being unemployed. The fall in unemployment was from fewer men unemployed.

The labour force grew by 22,000 people, with the rise in employment greater than the fall in unemployment. The labour force participation rate increased over the quarter, up 0.3 percentage points to 68.9 percent.

Diagram, labour market overview, December 2013 quarter.

Employment increases for both men and women

In the December 2013 quarter, the employment rate increased to 64.7 percent – up 0.3 percentage points, in seasonally adjusted terms. This follows a 0.7 percentage point increase in the September 2013 quarter and is up 1.1 percentage points from a year ago. This is the highest employment rate since the March 2009 quarter, a period when the employment rate experienced a sharp decline during the 2008–09 economic downturn.

Over the latest quarter, the male employment rate increased 0.5 percentage points to 70.7 percent. The female employment rate increased 0.3 percentage points to 59.1 percent, its highest rate since the December 2008 quarter.

In the December 2013 quarter, the number of people employed increased by 24,000 (1.1 percent), in seasonally adjusted terms. This change reflected a rise in both the number of men and women employed. The latest rise follows a 28,000 (1.2 percent) increase in the September 2013 quarter.

Over the year to December 2013, the number of people employed rose by 66,000 (3.0 percent) to 2,297,000 people. This is the largest annual percentage rise since the June 2006 quarter.

Graph, Employment rate, quarterly, December 2009 to December 2013.

Employment growth seen across a broad range of industries

The following figures are not seasonally adjusted, and are based on annual changes that are statistically significant unless otherwise stated.

The main contributor to the annual growth in employment was a rise in the professional, scientific, technical, administration, and support service industry group (up 26,400 people – 10.9 percent). This rise was from 22,400 more males employed in this industry group.

There were also increases in the retail trade, and accommodation and food services industry group (up 20,700 people – 6.0 percent), the construction industry (up 14,800 people – 8.6 percent), the manufacturing industry (up 14,300 – 6.0 percent) and the health care and social assistance industry group (up 16,600 – 7.1 percent). However, these movements were not statistically significant. 

For more on industry outcomes for men and women, please see How men and women have fared in the labour market since the 2008 recession.

More people in full-time and part-time employment

Both full-time and part-time employment increased in the December 2013 quarter. Full-time employment rose for the fifth consecutive quarter – up 17,000 (1.0 percent), while part-time employment rose 9,000 (1.9 percent). Over the year, both full-time (up 58,000 – 3.4 percent) and part-time employment increased (up 14,000 – 2.8 percent).

In unadjusted terms, industries with large rises in full-time employment over the year were the retail trade, accommodation and food services industry group; the construction industry; and the professional, scientific, technical, administration, and support service industry group. Of these changes, the rise in retail trade, accommodation and food services employment was the only statistically significant movement.

In part-time employment, there was a large rise in the professional, scientific, technical, administration, and support service industry group.

Underemployment rises

The following figures are not seasonally adjusted, and are based on annual changes that are statistically significant unless otherwise stated.

Over the year, the total number of underemployed people increased by 27,200 to 122,600. As a result, the underemployment rate increased 1.0 percentage points to 5.3 percent.

Although part-time employment rose, the proportion of part-time workers who are underemployed also increased. This indicates that even though there are more part-time workers employed, a greater proportion of those who were available to, want to work more hours.

Actual hours worked falls over the quarter but rises over the year

Over the latest quarter, the total number of hours people actually worked per week fell 0.3 percent and the number of usual hours worked rose 0.9 percent. The fall in actual hours worked follows a large 1.4 percent quarterly rise in the September 2013 quarter. 

Over the year, the seasonally adjusted number of actual hours worked per week rose by 1.3 percent and the number of usual hours rose by 3.9 percent. 

Unemployment continues to fall

In seasonally adjusted terms, the unemployment rate fell to 6.0 percent in the December 2013 quarter, down 0.2 percentage points. The last time the unemployment rate was this low was in the June 2009 quarter, when it was also 6.0 percent. Over the year, the unemployment rate fell 0.8 percentage points from 6.8 percent.

The unemployment rate trend series rose strongly after the economic downturn, but has remained relatively flat between the September 2009 and September 2012 quarters – it has since fallen for five consecutive quarters.

The seasonally adjusted male unemployment rate fell 0.5 percentage points to 5.2 percent over the quarter. The female unemployment rate rose 0.2 percentage points to 6.9 percent. While the female unemployment rate edged up over the quarter, it is still down 0.5 percentage points from a year ago.

The number of unemployed people fell by 2,000 to 147,000 in the December 2013 quarter. This fall was entirely from a drop in male unemployment – down 6,000. Over the year, the number of people unemployed decreased by 14,000 (8.9 percent).

Graph, Unemployment rate, quarterly, December 2008 to December 2013.

Falls in the number of jobless and short-term unemployed people

The following figures are not seasonally adjusted, and are based on annual changes that are statistically significant unless otherwise stated.

In the year to December 2013, the number of people in the jobless category fell 27,400 to 257,100. Alongside the 15,000 fall in the number of people unemployed, there was also a 10,200 fall in the number of people without a job who were available for work but not actively seeking.

The drop in unemployment over the year mainly came from a fall in the number of people in short-term unemployment (down 14,500 – 14.9 percent). Short-term unemployment is defined as being unemployed for 26 weeks or less. 

Labour force participation continues to rise

In seasonally adjusted terms, the number of people in the labour force increased by 22,000 (0.9 percent) in the December 2013 quarter, reflecting a large rise in employment and a smaller fall in unemployment.

As the number of people in the labour force rose and the number of people outside the labour force fell, the participation rate rose 0.3 percentage points to 68.9 percent in the December 2013 quarter – the second highest level since the series began. The rise can be largely explained by the female labour force participation rate – which rose, 0.4 percentage points, to 63.4 percent and is now at the highest level since the series began.

Over the year, the labour force participation rate rose 0.7 percentage points. This is the largest annual increase since early 2011. The increase is partly a reflection of a large fall in the number of people at home looking after children and a small fall in the number of retired people.

Graph, Labour force participation rate, quarterly, December 2008 to December 2013 quarter.

Labour market outcomes improve for young people

The following figures are not seasonally adjusted, and are based on annual changes that are statistically significant unless otherwise stated.

There was a large rise in employment for youth (15–24 years) over 2013 (up 28,500). The employment rate rose to 53.0 percent, up 4.6 percentage points from a year earlier. This rise in employment was exaggerated by a large atypical seasonal fall in employment for this age group in the December 2012 quarter. However, this is the highest employment rate for youth since the March 2009 quarter. 

The number of unemployed youth fell over 2013 (down 9,400). Given the annual rise in employment for this age group was greater than the fall in unemployment, the labour force participation rate rose to 62.8 percent (up 3.1 percentage points). The number of young people not in the labour force and participating in study rose by 5,100 over the year, following a period of high participation in study throughout 2013. The rise this quarter was not statistically significant.

NEET rate continues to decline

In the December 2013 quarter, the seasonally adjusted NEET (not in employment, education, or training) rate for youth (15–24 years) fell 0.1 percentage points to 11.3 percent – the lowest youth NEET rate since the December 2008 quarter. The youth NEET rate was down 2.6 percentage points from December 2012.

Over the latest quarter, the youth NEET rate for females fell 0.8 percentage points to 13.5 percent. The female NEET rate has fallen 3.8 percentage points over 2013. There were also annual falls in NEET rates for both the 15–19-year (down 1.4 percentage points to 8.1 percent) and 20–24-year age groups (down 3.8 percentage points to 14.3 percent).

Graph, NEET rate, seasonally adjusted, quarterly, December 2008 to December 2013.

Strong employment growth in Auckland

The following figures are not seasonally adjusted, and are based on annual changes that are statistically significant unless otherwise stated.

In the year to December 2013, Auckland employment rose by 48,000 people (6.7 percent), while unemployment fell by 3,800 people (7.0 percent). The unemployment rate fell 0.9 percentage points, to 6.3 percent, over the year to December 2013.  Of these changes, the rise in the number of people employed was the only statistically significant movement.

The main contributors to Auckland's employment growth were the professional, scientific, technical, administration, and support service industry group (20,900), and the retail trade, and accommodation and food services industry group (14,200).

The employment rate for Auckland increased to 64.8 percent over the year, up from 63.0 percent in the December 2012 quarter. This is the highest employment rate since the December 2008 quarter.

Graph, Auckland employment rate, unadjusted, quarterly, December 2009 to December 2013.

Canterbury labour market strengthens

The following figures are not seasonally adjusted, and are based on annual changes that are statistically significant unless otherwise stated. 

In the year to December 2013, Canterbury employment rose by 19,200 (5.9 percent), unemployment fell by 4,700 (27.6 percent), and the number of people outside the labour force fell slightly. The unemployment rate for Canterbury was 3.4 percent, the lowest since the September 2008 quarter. None of these movements were statistically significant.

The increase in Canterbury employment included a 7,600 rise in the retail trade, and accommodation and food services industry group and a 7,400 rise in the construction industry. The total number of actual and usual hours worked per week increased in Canterbury – up 5.2 percent and 7.1 percent, respectively.

When excluding Canterbury and Auckland from our national estimates, the other regions also had improving labour market outcomes over the year.

Graph, Canterbury employment rate, unadjusted, quarterly, December 2009 to December 2013.

Labour market outcomes improve for all ethnic groups

The following figures are not seasonally adjusted, and are based on annual changes that are statistically significant unless otherwise stated.

Labour market outcomes for all ethnic groups improved over the last year. Employment rates are higher than they were a year ago for European (up 2.2 percentage points to 67.2 percent), Māori  (up 3.7 percentage points to 58.9 percent), and Pacific ethnic groups (up 5.4 percentage points to 55.4 percent).

The unemployment rates fell for both Europeans (down 0.9 percentage points to 4.6 percent) and Asians (down 2.2 percentage points to 5.8 percent). Māori and Pacific ethnic groups also had lower unemployment rates than a year ago, although these were not statistically significant movements.

New population benchmarks following the 2013 Census

Following each Census of Population and Dwellings, estimates from the HLFS are rebased using information from the census. This is called a population rebase and occurs once new national population estimates are released. These are the source of the HLFS working-age population estimates.

We expect that the next HLFS population rebase will be in late 2014, or early 2015. This date may change as work plans are firmed up closer to the time.

For the coming population rebase, an improvement will be made to our estimation methodology by implementing regional population benchmarks. The HLFS currently applies two sets of benchmarks: sex by five-year age bands, and Māori by sex for the 15–29 and 30-years-and-over age groups. The new benchmarks will be subnational working-age population estimates for the regional council areas currently published in the HLFS.

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 Infoshare.

Graph, Employment rate, quarterly, December 1998 to December 2013.

Graph, Unemployment rate, quarterly, December 1998 to December 2013.

Graph, Labour force participation rate, quarterly, December 2008 to December 2013 quarter.

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

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