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Labour Market Statistics: March 2015 quarter
Embargoed until 10:45am  –  06 May 2015
Commentary

On 31 March 2015, we revised all of the series from the Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS) to account for the latest population estimates following the 2013 Census. We also introduced regional benchmarks to help improve the quality of our regional labour force estimates. As we have changed our previous estimates, we do not recommend comparing these results from this release with the December 2014 quarter Labour Market Statistics information release.

See Household Labour Force Survey population rebase from 2013 Census: Includes regional benchmarks for the revised HLFS results from December 2014 quarter, and further information.

All figures are seasonally adjusted unless otherwise stated.

Unemployment rate remains flat at 5.8 percent

The unemployment rate remained at 5.8 percent in the March 2015 quarter – unchanged from a revised rate of 5.8 percent for the December 2014 quarter. While the unemployment rate was unchanged, there were 3,000 more unemployed people over the quarter.

Over the year to the March 2015 quarter, the unemployment rate fell 0.2 percentage points (from 6.0 percent).

See revisions for more information on the revision to the seasonally adjusted estimates.

More men but fewer women unemployed

While the overall unemployment rate has remained the same between the latest two quarters, the movement of male and female unemployment rates differed. The number of unemployed men rose by 6,000, while 3,000 fewer women were unemployed over the March 2015 quarter.

This resulted in a 0.4 percentage point increase in the unemployment rate for men (up to 5.4 percent) and a 0.2 percentage point decrease for women (down to 6.3 percent). This is the lowest unemployment rate for women since the September 2009 quarter.

Labour force participation at all-time high

In the March 2015 quarter 19,000 more people entered the labour force. Consequently, the labour force participation rate rose 0.2 percentage points, to 69.6 percent. This is the highest participation rate since the series began in 1986. While the overall labour force has grown, the employment and unemployment rates were unchanged from the December 2014 quarter.

Over the year to the March 2015 quarter, 73,000 more people joined the labour force. The 20–34-year age groups contributed nearly half this annual growth. The rise in the labour force was consistent with high growth in the working-age population. The working-age population increased 2.1 percent over the year – the largest annual percentage increase since the year to the March 2004 quarter. High net migration for the 20–34-year age groups contributed to the growing working-age population.

See Migration for more detail information on migration.

The growth in the number of people in the labour force over the quarter came predominantly from a large increase in the number of men joining. In the March 2015 quarter, there were 17,000 more men in the labour force and 2,000 more women.

Labour market diagram

Employment growth still strong

In the March 2015 quarter the number of people employed increased by 16,000 (0.7 percent); the working-age population was up 0.6 percent, resulting in the employment rate of 65.5 percent – unchanged from the previous quarter. Over the year, the number of people employed increased by 74,000 (3.2 percent).

The number of filled jobs reported by businesses (from the Quarterly Employment Survey (QES)) increased 3.3 percent in the year to the March 2015 quarter.

Employment rate for men highest since 2008

In the March 2015 quarter the number of employed men increased by 11,000, resulting in a male employment rate of 71.2 percent – the highest since the December 2008 quarter. At 75.3 percent, the male labour force participation rate also reached its highest level since the December 2008 quarter.

The employment rate for men rose 0.3 percentage points over the latest quarter and 0.6 percentage points over the year. Male employment increased as a high number of 20–34-year-olds entered the labour force – this age group accounted for 60 percent of the annual change in male employment.

The employment rate for women was 60.2 percent in the March 2015 quarter. This is the second-highest employment rate on record for women; the previous high was 60.3 percent in the December 2014 quarter.

 

Employment growth in construction still strong

The following industry and regional estimates are not seasonally adjusted. They are based on annual changes that are statistically significant unless otherwise stated.

The largest contributions to the rise in filled jobs over the year reported by businesses from the QES came from:

  • accommodation and food services 
  • professional, scientific, technical, administration, and support services 
  • construction.

While the QES is better designed to give industry estimates, most self-employment is out of scope of the QES and therefore not reflected in growth in filled jobs. However, self-employment is accounted for in the HLFS. The HLFS shows that around 20 percent of people working in the construction industry are self-employed.

Employment in construction remained strong in Canterbury and Auckland, with 8,600 more people employed in Canterbury and 6,700 more people employed in Auckland over the year. In total, 23,300 more people were employed in construction, accounting for 31.6 percent of total national employment growth.

Auckland leads national employment growth

In the year to March 2015, Auckland accounted for almost half of national employment growth, with 36,800 more people employed. Employment growth in Canterbury has eased further – to 16 percent of national employment growth (11,900 more people employed over the year). This is a significant change from the year to September 2014, in which Canterbury had accounted for almost one-third of national employment growth. 

 

Other contributors to national employment growth included Waikato, Bay of Plenty, and Otago, although growth was not statistically significant in these regions.

 

Full-time employment is rising

In the March 2015 quarter, the number of people employed in full-time employment increased by 11,000 (up 0.6 percent), while the number of people in part-time employment remained flat (up 0.2 percent). Over the year, 60,000 more people were employed in full-time employment (up 3.4 percent), and 12,000 more people in part-time employment (up 2.4 percent).

The number of full-time jobs reported by businesses (from the QES) increased 5 percent over the year, while the number of part-time jobs reported increased 0.2 percent.

The number of women who are underemployed increased by 9,600 over the year to the March 2015 quarter. Underemployment refers to part-time workers who are willing and available to work more hours than they usually do. There was no statistically significant change to the number of underemployed men over the year.

Youth NEET rate rises

The overall NEET (not in employment, education, or training) rate for youth aged 15 to 24 years rose 0.5 percentage points, to 11.8 percent in the March 2015 quarter, but fell 0.3 percentage points over the last year. The increase over the quarter was for both youth aged 15 to 19 years, and youth aged 20 to 24 years.

Outcomes for Māori

 Labour market statistics for Māori

Mar 2015 quarter Annual change
(000)  Percent
Employed 270.7 +1.5
Unemployed 39.1 -4.6
Not in the labour force 156.1   +4.5
  Percent Percentage points 
Employment rate 58.1 -0.2
Unemployment rate 12.6 -0.7
Labour force participation rate  66.5 -0.8

Annual wage growth remains steady

QES hourly earnings and labour cost index (LCI) figures are not seasonally adjusted.

In the year to the March 2015 quarter:

  • The LCI increased 1.7 percent, following a 1.8 percent rise in the year to December 2014. This measure of wage inflation reflects changes in the rates that employers pay to have the same job done to the same standard. 
  • The unadjusted LCI increased 2.5 percent. This shows the quality change within occupations as well as wage inflation. 
  • Average ordinary-time hourly earnings increased 2.1 percent, following a 2.6 percent increase in the year to December 2014. This measures the average hourly wage bill across all jobs in surveyed industries.

Wage growth remains above consumer price inflation

The prices of goods and services bought by households, as measured by the consumers price index (CPI), increased 0.1 percent in the year to the March 2015 quarter. The CPI excluding petrol increased 1.0 percent in the same period.

See Consumers Price Index: March 2015 quarter.

The LCI salary and wage rates (including overtime) increased 1.7 percent over the year. The gap between wage rates and consumer inflation increased further in the latest quarter, as wage growth remained steady and CPI inflation continued to weaken. Wage inflation has now been higher or equal to the CPI for three-and-a-half years.

 

Low proportion of positions have pay increases this quarter

Over the latest quarter, 11 percent of all salary and ordinary time wage rates increased. While the proportion of salary and wage rates increasing in a March quarter is usually low, this is the lowest proportion since the March 2010 quarter. In the year to the March 2015 quarter, 59 percent of all salary and ordinary time wage rates increased. This was unchanged from the year to the December 2014 quarter.

Private and public sector wage growth unchanged

In the year to the March 2015 quarter, private sector salary and wage rates (including overtime) increased 1.8 percent, compared with 1.2 percent for the public sector. These increases are unchanged from the year to the December 2014 quarter.

For more detailed data about labour market statistics, see the Excel tables in the 'Downloads' box.

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