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GDP statistics delayed because of quake

Thursday 14th April 2011

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The announcement of the March Gross Domestic Product (GDP) figures could be delayed by two weeks because of the Christchurch earthquake and it is still unclear when this year's postponed census will be held, Statistics New Zealand (SNZ) says.

The February 22 quake caused major disruption to data collection in Canterbury and it could be some months before staff there get back to normal.

Government statistician Geoff Bascand said no collated information was lost but there would be limitations on how data collection could progress. The March quarter GDP release which was scheduled for June 23 would now be delayed by up to two weeks.

"The extra time will be used to analyse how the earthquake affected processes for measuring GDP and to get supplementary data. The impact of the earthquake will not be able to be isolated easily in the GDP statistics."

It was not clear yet what the gaps in information would be as SNZ was still in the processing and collecting phase of the March quarter, Bascand said.

The annual national accounts in November are expected to provide more detailed information about the structure of the economy.

Mr Bascand said the census which was postponed because of the quake, was before the Government for consideration.

"Statistics has given the Government advice on that matter and Government is deliberating on the next step. It isn't clear when it will be held, there are a number of factors to consider."

The census had been expected to cost around $89 million though that would be closer to $72 million at this point. Bascand indicated the longer the census was delayed, the more expensive it would be and most of the costs would have to be re-incurred.

Bascand said the Household Labour Force Survey was on track for release on May 5 even though no surveying was carried out in Selwyn, Waimakariri and Christchurch for six weeks after the quake.

Surveying had now resumed as normal. "About five percent of the normal sample has not been interviewed. We are very conscious that surveying in Christchurch is a sensitive matter...some people may not be ready to start answering our surveyors so we are taking care," Bascand said.

Canterbury contributed about 10% to the national estimates so impacts on national figures would be limited.

Mr Bascand said that other services SNZ provides such as Balance of Payments and the Consumers Price Index would not be delayed by the quake and were on track.



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