Slowdown in jobs created, but unemployment slightly falls

The number of people out of work has fallen slightly, but the number of jobs being created has slowed, while wage growth remains close to its best in a decade.

Official figures show the unemployment rate rose to a seasonally adjusted 4.0 percent in the three months ended December from a revised 4.1 percent in the previous quarter.

The jobless number was better than expected, but the number of jobs created slowed to 1000 for the quarter, while a record number of people left the workforce. The slowdown in employment reflected the mid-year economic slowdown.

The underutilisation rate, which measures the number of people working seeking more hours and is an indicator of slack in the market, fell to 10.0 percent, the lowest since mid-2008.

"Underutilised people include those who have a job but want to work more hours, or are available to work but aren't looking, or are looking for work but aren't available to start within the next month," Stats NZ senior manager Sean Broughton said.

Overall wage growth was at its strongest in a decade at 2.6 percent, but that reflected some big public sector settlements. Private sector wages grew at a slower rate.

ASB senior economist Mike Jones said the labour market appeared to be in good shape at the end of last year.

"This very much plays with the grain of recent domestic economic data showing the economy was in reasonable health at the end of last year, and perhaps even starting to pick up."

He said the numbers would not affect the Reserve Bank holding the cash rate unchanged next week at 1 percent," Jones said.

"The RBNZ is hitting its labour market and inflation objectives, but this is quickly being overtaken by recent events, namely the coronavirus. We also remain wary of some slackening in the labour market over 2020."

This article was originally published on RNZ and re-published with permission.

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