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Household Labour Force Survey: March 2013 quarter
Embargoed until 10:45am  –  09 May 2013
Commentary

Labour force improves this quarter – overview

In the March 2013 quarter, the employment rate increased 1.0 percentage points to 63.7 percent in seasonally adjusted terms. This follows three quarters of consecutive declines and leaves the employment rate down 0.3 percentage points over the year. This is mirrored in the trend series, which also increased after weakness throughout 2012.

The number of people employed increased by 38,000 in the quarter, with more people employed in full-time work.

The unemployment rate fell in the quarter, down 0.6 percentage points to 6.2 percent, from 6.8  percent (revised) the previous quarter. This decrease reflects 15,000 fewer people unemployed, with fewer men and women unemployed this quarter.

The labour force grew by 24,000 people, with the rise in employment greater than the fall in unemployment. The labour force participation rate increased 0.6 percentage points in the quarter, to 67.8 percent.

The number of people not in the labour force decreased in the quarter – down 19,000 people. The fall came from a decrease in the number of women not in the labour force.

 Diagram, Labour market overview, March 2013 quarter.

Employment recovers after weakness

In the March 2013 quarter, the employment rate increased to 63.7 percent – up 1.0 percentage points, in seasonally adjusted terms. This is the first increase in the employment rate since December 2011. However, the employment rate is still down 0.3 percentage points over the year, and well below levels seen before the 2008 and 2009 recession.

Both the seasonally adjusted series and the trend series fell over 2012, although the fall in the trend series was not as pronounced. Since the September 2012 quarter the trend series has increased slightly, up 0.2 percentage points, but the rate remains lower than a year ago.

The female employment rate increased for the quarter, up 1.3 percentage points to 58.4 percent – returning to levels seen a year ago. The male employment rate increased 0.6 percentage points to 69.2 percent.

The number of people employed grew by 38,000 in the quarter. The numbers of both men and women employed rose – up 13,000 and 25,000, respectively. There was also an increase in the number of people in full-time employment.

Over the year to March 2013, the number of people employed remained relatively steady, up 7,000 (0.3 percent) to 2,234,000. The number of men employed decreased by 2,000 (down 0.1 percent) and the number of women employed increased by 9,000 (up 0.9 percent).

 Graph, Full-time employment, quarterly, March 2009 to March 2013.

 

 

Rise in full-time workers pushes up employment growth 

Full-time employment increased in the March 2013 quarter, up 1.8 percent to reach 1,740,000. Over the year, there were 40,000 more people in full-time employment – up 2.3 percent.

Part-time employment increased by a smaller amount in the quarter – up 1.3 percent to 494,000. However, over the year part-time employment decreased by 6.4 percent.

Full-time employment by industry

The annual industry figures below are not seasonally adjusted.

Overall, full-time employment rose across a broad range of industries. There was an increase in full-time employment in the health care and social assistance industry over the year to March 2013 (up by 15,500). During the same period, full-time employment in the wholesale trade industry fell (down by 8,600). Both these changes were statistically significant.

Actual hours worked increases

In the March 2013 quarter, the seasonally adjusted number of hours people actually worked per week increased to 75.6 million hours (up 3.2 percent). Usual hours worked also grew, up 2.2 percent to 81.6 million hours.

The increase in hours is greater than the increase in employment, partly reflecting the strength in full-time employment relative to part-time employment.

Underemployment down over the year

A new measure of underemployment was introduced this quarter. Underemployed people are now defined as part-time workers who are available and want to work more hours. An availability constraint has been added to the definition of underemployment, allowing us to distinguish between people who 'voluntarily' worked fewer hours than their preference in the reference week and those who did not. The new measure is now in line with the definition used by the International Labour Organization, making our data more internationally comparable.  

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

Over the year to March 2013, the total number of people underemployed fell by 9,800 (10.5 percent) to 83,300. As a result, the underemployment rate decreased 0.5 percentage points to 3.7 percent.

The fall in part-time employment over the year was a large contributor to the fall in underemployment. The proportion of part-time workers who were underemployed also declined over the year. This indicates that fewer of those people who are currently employed part-time want to work more hours.

Number of employees and employers increase over the year

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

Over the year to March 2013, the total number of people employed increased by 8,900 (up 0.4 percent). There was an increase in the number of people employed as wage and salary earners, up 37,100 (2.0 percent), and in the number of employers, up 17,800 (18.7 percent).

The number of self-employed people decreased by 46,100 (down 18.2 percent). Self-employment has been decreasing since its peak in the December 2011 quarter. 'Self-employment' was the only employment type to significantly decrease over the year. 

More Asian people in employment over the year

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

The total number of employed people who identified as Asian increased over the year – up 36,300 (15.7 percent). This increase was made up of both Asian men and women – up 21,200 and 15,100, respectively – and reflected significant growth in the Asian population over the year.

Unemployment falls for the quarter

In seasonally adjusted terms, the unemployment rate fell to 6.2 percent over the March 2013 quarter. This is a 0.6 percentage point fall from 6.8 percent (revised) the previous quarter.

The unemployment rate for men fell 0.7 percentage points to 5.5 percent – the lowest level since the March 2009 quarter. The female unemployment rate also fell after rising for four consecutive quarters – down 0.7 percentage points to 6.9 percent.

The number of unemployed people fell 15,000 for the quarter, to 146,000.  The number of both men and women unemployed fell – down 9,000 and 6,000 respectively.

In March quarters, seasonal factors usually cause unemployment to rise. Due to the atypical fall in seasonally unadjusted unemployment over the March 2013 quarter, this increase has not occurred, and the unusual movements were accentuated once usual seasonal influences were removed.  

 Graph, Unemployment rate, quarterly, March 2009 to March 2013.  Graph, Unemployed, quarterly, March 2009 to March 2013.

Short-term unemployment down over the year

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

Over the year to March 2013, the number of people in short-term unemployment decreased by 16,200, to 92,900 (down 14.8 percent). Short-term unemployment is defined as being unemployed for less than 26 weeks.

Youth labour market improves 

In the year to March 2013, there was a large fall in unemployment for people aged 15–24 years (down 10,500). This fall can be largely attributed to a decrease in unemployed 20–24-year-olds (down 11,200). This was an atypical fall in unemployment, as the number of people unemployed for this age group usually increases during March quarters. The unemployment rate for people aged 20–24 years fell 4.1 percentage points to 10.9 percent – the lowest rate since the September 2009 quarter. 

The employment rate for 20–24-year-olds rose over the year to March 2013. There was also an increase in the number of people aged 15–24 years not in the labour force over the year. Behind this was a rise in the number of young people outside the labour force who are studying (up 25,000). The number of both 15–19-year-olds and 20–24-year-olds in study rose –  up 16,200 and 8,800 respectively.

NEET rate declines

In seasonally adjusted terms, the NEET (not in employment, education or training) rate for youth (aged 15–24 years) decreased 1.5 percentage points, to 12.5 percent in the March 2013 quarter. This is the lowest youth NEET rate since the September 2011 quarter. The NEET rate for people aged 20–24 years fell 2.4 percentage points to 15.9 percent.

The female youth NEET rate decreased for the first time since September 2011 – down 1.2 percentage points to 16.2 percent. The male NEET rate also fell 2.0 percentage points, to 8.9 percent, after being relatively flat for the last three quarters.

 Graph, NEET rate, quarterly, March 2009 to March 2013.

Participation up for the quarter but down over the year

In seasonally adjusted terms, the number of people in the labour force increased by 24,000 (up 1.0 percent) in the March 2013 quarter – mainly from a 19,000 rise in the number of women in the labour force. Alongside the rise in the labour force, the number of people not in the labour force fell by 19,000 people (down 1.7 percent).

The strong growth in the labour force saw the labour force participation rate increase by 0.6 percentage points, to 67.8 percent. Despite the increase in the quarter, the labour force participation rate has decreased over the year – down 0.8 percentage points.

Coinciding with this fall, there has been an increase in the number of people not in the labour force compared with a year ago. In unadjusted terms, there was an increase in both the number of people out of the labour force who are studying (30,700) and those who are retired (17,500).

Canterbury unemployment falls over the year

In the year to March 2013, Canterbury employment rose by 2,100 (0.6 percent), while unemployment decreased by 4,000 (21.3 percent). The decrease in unemployment came almost entirely from males – down 3,800 (33.4 percent) – while female unemployment showed little change. Overall, Canterbury's unemployment rate decreased 1.2 percentage points, to 4.3 percent over the year to March 2013.

Over the year, there was also a decline of 13,400 people in Canterbury's working-age population. Underneath this, there was a fall of 11,500 (7.4 percent) in the number of people not in the labour force.

The decline in the number of people not in the labour force helped push up the region's labour force participation and employment rates – up 1.6 and 2.2 percentage points, respectively. The rise in the employment rate was the only significant change in Canterbury over the year.

Excluding Canterbury from the national estimates shows a much weaker labour market. In the rest of the country, the employment rate fell over the year, as did the labour force participation rate. While the unemployment rate fell in both Canterbury and the rest of New Zealand, Canterbury's fall was larger than the fall in the national estimate.

The total number of actual and usual hours worked per week increased in Canterbury – up 3.5 percent and 0.8 percent, respectively. Similar to the national estimates, hours in Canterbury have increased at a greater rate than employment over the year.

Supplementary Excel tables with detailed data for the Canterbury region are available from the 'Downloads' box.  

Changes to the release for June 2013 quarter

The Quarterly Employment Survey: June 2013 quarter, the Labour Cost Index (Salary and Wage Rates): June 2013 quarter,  as well as the Household Labour Force Survey: June 2013 quarter will be released on the same day. This will provide a more comprehensive labour market overview. There is likely to be a minor date change for this release. Any changes will be announced well in advance.

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, March 1998 to March 2013.

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

Graph, Labour force participation rate, quarterly, March 1998 to March 2013.

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

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