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NZ unemployment rate slips to 6.2 percent as companies hire workers; kiwi jumps

Wednesday 6th November 2013

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New Zealand's unemployed rate fell more than expected in the third quarter as construction, retail and hospitality firms hired workers. The kiwi dollar jumped a third of a US cent on the figures.

The unemployment rate slipped to 6.2 percent in the three months ended Sept. 30 just below the 6.3 percent forecast in a Reuters survey of economists, and down from 6.4 percent in the June quarter, according to Statistics New Zealand's Household Labour Force Survey.

The labour market got a boost, with 1.2 percent growth in employment, beating estimates of 0.6 percent, led by gains in retail, accommodation and food services, and the construction sector. Those gains were primarily in Auckland and Christchurch, the country's two biggest cities, which are also facing construction booms. Full-time employment rose 1 percent and part-time jobs grew 1.1 percent.

New Zealand's participation rate rose to 68.6 percent in the September quarter from 68.1 percent in the previous quarter, against the backdrop of increasing net migration. The labour cost index, which measures wage inflation, rose 0.5 percent across private and public sectors and including overtime.

Ordinary time private sector wage inflation increased 0.4 percent in the quarter, and was up 1.6 percent on an annual basis.

"We saw continued improvement in the labour market conditions over the quarter as employment rose and unemployment fell," Diane Ramsay, industry and labour statistics manager, said in a statement. "However, annual wage inflation remains constrained."

The New Zealand dollar jumped to 83.60 US cents from 83.28 cents immediately before the 10:45am report. The kiwi rose to 87.94 Australian cents from 87.60 cents before the report.

The gains in the labour market come as the outlook for the economy improves on the prospect of major construction work in Auckland and Christchurch, and upbeat outlooks among businesses.

The primary sector was a weak spot. Jobs in agriculture, forestry and fishing fell to 138,700 in the September quarter from 147,100 from June. The primary sector was hit by the worst drought in 70 years during the summer.

Total hours worked rose 1.6 percent to 76.11 million hours in the quarter, and were up 3.8 percent on an annual basis

The Quarterly Employment Survey, also released today showed ordinary time private sector wages rose 1.6 percent to $25.91, and were up 2.6 percent on an annual basis, outpacing the 1.4 percent growth in public sector wages to $35.33. Average weekly paid hours for full-time equivalents ordinary time rose 1.4 percent to $1,050.05.

New Zealand's unemployment rate ranked 13th lowest among developed nations, below Israel and above Denmark.

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