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Stats changes can't hide unemployment reality

Today’s minor drop in unemployment numbers is nothing to celebrate given the changes made to the official numbers that cut thousands of people looking for work out of the jobless rate, says Labour’s Employment spokesperson Grant Robertson.

“Making any comparisons between this survey and any previous data is hazardous given the changes in methodology that exclude people who look for work online from unemployment. Even Statistics New Zealand is expressing caution about interpreting the new figures.

“The employment numbers have surged by unbelievable levels, led by new classifications. ANZ has called today’s data ‘meaningless’ and Westpac dubbed the data ‘muddied’.

“This reclassification does not mean that a single person who is out of work and wants to work now has a job.

“The truth is the Government is not doing enough to get people into jobs, especially in the regions. Even on these figures Northland has an unemployment rate of 10 per cent. We need a government that is an active partner in helping communities create decent and well paid work.

“Even on their own figures, after eight years of National, there are more than 131,000 people unemployed, 71,000 people aged 15 – 24 not in education, employment or training, and 342,000 Kiwis whose labour is underutilised.

“Labour continues to have concerns about the methodological changes that have been made to measuring unemployment. According to TradeMe up to 50,000 people a day look for jobs online, an increase of 15 per cent on last year. As TradeMe head of jobs Jeremy Wade said this morning, ‘There’s people who when they are not applying for jobs may still be actively looking’. They should be included in these figures.

“I accept the Chief Statistician's assurances on the reason for the change in criteria but New Zealanders need to be aware that National Ministers have a track record of misusing and misrepresenting statistics, and have already claimed credit for improved statistics that are nothing more than a change in measurement.

“However National Ministers want to spin it, it’s clear that we need an active government to partner with regions to create jobs, boost innovation through R&D tax credits and focus on education and training to create the skills employers need, instead of bringing more people in from overseas.

“Only a change of government can deliver real jobs for New Zealanders, rather than a mirage produced by new statistics,” says Grant Robertson.