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Household Labour Force Survey: March 2014 quarter
Embargoed until 10:45am  –  07 May 2014
Commentary

Overview

In the March 2014 quarter, the employment rate increased 0.4 percentage points in seasonally adjusted terms. The number of people employed increased by 22,000.

The unemployment rate remained flat over the quarter at 6.0 percent.

The labour force grew by 22,000 people, following the rise in employment and no change in unemployment. The labour force participation rate increased 0.4 percentage points over the quarter, to a record high of 69.3 percent.

 Diagram, Labour market overview, March 2014 quarter.

Employment continues to rise

In the March 2014 quarter, the employment rate increased to 65.1 percent – up 0.4 percentage points, in seasonally adjusted terms. This follows a 0.3 percentage point increase in the December 2013 quarter and is up 1.4 percentage points from a year ago. This is the highest employment rate since the December 2008 quarter, before the employment rate began an extended decline during the 2008-09 economic downturn.

The number of people employed increased by 22,000 (0.9 percent) in seasonally adjusted terms. Over the year to March 2014, the number of people employed rose 84,000 (3.7 percent) to 2,318,000 people. This is the largest annual increase since December 2004 when the increase was 90,000.

The quarterly increase reflects a rise in both the number of men and women employed and it is the highest employment rate for both men (71.0 percent) and women (59.6 percent) since the December 2008 quarter where the employment rates for men and women were 72.4 percent and 60.1 percent, respectively.  

 

 

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 contributors to the annual growth in employment were the construction industry (up 24,400 people – 14 percent) and the professional, scientific, technical, administration, and support service industry group (up 17,700 people – 7 percent).

Although not statistically significant, there was also a rise in the retail trade, accommodation, and food services industry group (up 17,100 people – 4.9 percent).

More people in full-time and part-time employment

Both full-time and part-time employment increased in the March 2014 quarter. Full-time employment rose for the sixth consecutive quarter – up 19,000 (1.1 percent). Part-time employment rose 2,000 (0.3 percent) over the quarter, although it is still below the recent peak seen in early 2012.

Annually, both full-time employment (up 60,000 – 3.5 percent) and part-time employment increased (up 23,000 – 4.7 percent).

Industries with large rises in full-time employment over the year were the construction industry, the professional, scientific, technical, administration, and support service industry group, and the wholesale trade industry.

Employment outcomes improve for Māori

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

Māori employment continued to rise over the year (up 14,500 – 5.8 percent) and the employment rate for Māori has increased 2.5 percentage points over the year to 58.7 percent. The labour force participation rate for Māori has increased 2.3 percentage points over the year to 67.6 percent in the March 2014 quarter.

The employment outcomes for other ethnic groups have also improved over the last year. Employment rates are higher than they were a year ago for Europeans (1.2 percentage points to 67.1 percent), and for Pacific peoples (3.2 percentage points to 54.3 percent).

Actual hours worked increases over the quarter and year

Over the quarter, the total number of hours people actually worked per week increased 2.7 percent and the number of total usual hours worked rose 1.2 percent. The increase in hours for the quarter was a reflection of people who were employed working longer hours due to people spreading holidays over the December and March quarters.

In the year to March 2014, the seasonally adjusted number of total actual hours worked per week rose by 3.3 percent and the number of total usual hours rose by 3.1 percent. This increase mirrors the rise in people who are employed.

Labour force participation reaches record high

In seasonally adjusted terms, the number of people in the labour force increased by 22,000 (0.9 percent) in the March 2014 quarter, reflecting a large rise in employment and no change 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 0.4 percentage points to 69.3 percent in the March 2014 quarter. The participation rate is now at the highest level since the series began in 1986, just surpassing the 69.2 percent seen in the December 2008 quarter. Over the year, the labour force participation rate rose 1.4 percentage points. This is also the largest annual increase for the series.

 

Unemployment flat for the quarter

In seasonally adjusted terms, there was no movement for the unemployment rate from last quarter, remaining flat at 6.0 percent. The unemployment rate has fallen from 6.8 percent in the December 2012 quarter to 6.2 percent in the March 2013 quarter and then to 6.0 percent in the March 2014 quarter. Over the year, the unemployment rate was down 0.2 percent. Prior to that, the unemployment rate was last this low in the June 2009 quarter where it was also 6.0 percent. The trend series for the unemployment rate has fallen for the last five consecutive quarters.

The seasonally adjusted male unemployment rate increased 0.3 percentage points to 5.6 percent over the quarter, while the unemployment rate for women decreased 0.5 percentage points to 6.4 percent. Although the male unemployment rate edged up over the quarter, there was no change from a year ago. The female unemployment rate decreased 0.5 percentage points over the year.

 

Labour market outcomes improve for young people over the year

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

There was a rise in employment for people aged 15–24 years over the year (up 15,600 – 4.9 percent) and the employment rate rose to 52.6 percent, up 2.5 percentage points from a year ago. Additionally, the labour force participation rate rose to 62.9 percent (up 3.2 percentage points).

While the number of unemployed people aged 15–24 years increased over the year (up 4,300 – 7.0 percent), this movement was not statistically significant and was partly a reflection of an atypically low number of unemployed youth in the March 2013 quarter. Typically, March quarters show an increase of youth in unemployment but the March 2013 quarter showed a large decrease. Youth unemployment is lower now than it was two years ago. 

In the March 2014 quarter, the seasonally adjusted NEET (not in employment, education, or training) rate for youth (15–24 years) increased 0.5 percentage points to 11.8 percent. However, the NEET rate is still 0.8 percentage points lower compared with a year ago.

Auckland continues to show employment growth

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

In the year to March 2014, both Auckland and Canterbury showed strong employment growth, but when excluding Auckland and Canterbury from our national estimates, the other regions also had improved labour market outcomes. Employment across the other regions was up 24,200 people (2.0 percent).

Over the year, Auckland employment rose by 30,800 (4.3 percent) and the labour force increased by 32,900 (4.2 percent). The Auckland employment rate is 64.4 percent (up 1.9 percentage points) and labour force participation rate is 69.4 percent (up 2.0 percentage points).

The increase in Auckland employment included a 13,800 (13 percent) rise in the retail trade, and accommodation and food services industry group and an 11,100 (11 percent) rise in the professional, scientific, technical, administration, and support service industry group. These increases were not statistically significant.

Strong employment growth in Canterbury

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

In the year to March 2014, Canterbury employment rose by 29,100 (8.9 percent) and the employment rate was 69.9 percent, the highest since the series began in 1986. The previous peak for the employment rate was in the June 2006 quarter at 69.6 percent.

The number of people unemployed decreased by 2,600 (18 percent) over the year and the unemployment rate for Canterbury is now 3.3 percent; the lowest unemployment rate since the September 2008 quarter when it was also 3.3 percent. However, these movements were not statistically significant.

The increase in Canterbury employment included an 11,900 (36 percent) rise in the construction industry and an 11,900 (26 percent) rise in the retail trade, and accommodation and food services industry group. The total number of actual and usual hours worked per week increased in Canterbury – up 6.9 percent and 8.1 percent, respectively.

 

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 early 2015. This date may be brought forward as work plans are firmed up over the next few months.

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.

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