Essential Information on an Essential Issue
16 November, 2000
Our regular Statistics That Matter feature based on the Household Labour Force Survey for the September Quarter
- UNEMPLOYMENT THE LOWEST FOR 12 YEARS
The official unemployment rate has dropped to 5.9%, its lowest level for 12 years. The
September figures show 37,000 more people employed compared to a year ago, and 86% of these new
jobs have been in full-time employment. Our regular
Statistics That Matter summary of the
employment statistics is included in this issue of
The Jobs Letter. Some highlights:
The number of people unemployed has dropped by 3,000 or 2.6% since June and 16,000
compared to a year ago. The labour market participation rate has increased by 0.3% to 65.5%.
Auckland accounted for about half of the overall growth in employment during the last
quarter. Northland remains the highest region for unemployment with a rate of 8.7%, followed by Bay of
Plenty at 8.1%.
- Deputy PM Jim Anderton says that the 5.9% level of unemployment compares well with
the 6.4% rate predicted by the previous government in its
Pre-Election Economic and Fiscal Update. He says that the difference means that at least 10,000 more New Zealanders now have jobs. Anderton:
"In a decade in office, the National Party never brought the level of unemployment this low. Not only
that, but before the last election they were still promising to keep unemployment higher than it is now
under the Labour-Alliance Coalition
- Our Media Watch reports that most newspapers have treated the "good news" jobs figures
with some caution. Economists interviewed in the media have questioned the jobs figures, noting that
recent business surveys show firms planning to shed staff.
Examples: The Institute of Economic Research's quarterly survey of business opinion has more
firms reporting a fall than an increase in staff numbers over the September quarter, and expecting further
cuts. The National Bank's October business confidence survey finds almost as many firms saying they
would be shedding staff as hiring over the coming year. ANZ Bank chief economist Bernard Hodgetts
says that the latest jobs figures are "completely at odds with most other indicators of what is happening in
the labour market".
Act's Dr Muriel Newman postulates that unemployment statistics reflect the state of the economy
nine to 12 months earlier, as job growth or decline generally follows economic growth by this
period. Newman: "While the overall statistics are a reflection of the strong economy a year ago, the
current economic flatness is almost certain to see bleaker figures and a rise in unemployment during 2001."
- Opposition parties have also pointed to the ethnic figures in the last survey which show
that, despite a marked improvement in job creation, the Maori unemployment rate rose from 13% to
14.2%, and Pacific Island unemployment went from 10.8% to 11.3%. National's Employment Spokesman
Bob Simcock: "That hardly qualifies as closing the gaps! For both those groups there are also a
growing number of people who have given up on even trying to look for work with Maori and Pacific
Islanders described as "not participating in the labour force" rising in the last three months."
- Statistics NZ reports that employment in the Construction Industry has increased by 9,700 in
the last year, and employment in Accommodation, Cafes and Restaurants is up 11,300. Employment fell
by 13,400 in Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing.
A curious figure: The employment data also estimates that 8,000 jobs were created in the
Education sector in the last three months. ANZ economists describe this as "implausibly large", especially
when you consider this would be the equivalent of the entire staff of two to three large universities.
Sources Statistics NZ Household Labour force Survey September 2000 Quarter; New Zealand Herald 3 November
2000 "Employment figures bring a ray of hope" by Brian Fallow; The Dominion 3 November 2000 "Unemployment dip
puzzles econmists" by Mathew Brockett; Press Release 2 November 2000 Helen Clark "Good News For Economy"; Press Release
2 November 2000 Jim Anderton "Unemployment Falls To 12-Year Low"; Press Release 2 November 2000 Steve Maharey
"Figures good - but Govt will continue jobs focus"; Press Release 2 November 2000 Bob Simcock "Nats welcome apparent turnaround
in unemployment"; Press Release 2 November 2000 Dr Muriel Newman "Employment Figures Point to Future Concerns";
Hard News by Russell Brown 3 November 2000 _ "Bad News, Good News"; The Independent 8 November 2000 "Cool response
to employment data deserves warming up" by Bob Edlin.
- VOICES: ON THE JOBS FIGURES
"The fall in unemployment is very encouraging, particularly as the government is putting in place
policies aimed at regenerating the economy and creating more jobs. It demonstrates that New Zealand has
the base to build a sustainably growing economy, capable of producing sophisticated goods and services."
Helen Clark, Prime Minister
" Today's figures suggest the policies of the Labour-Alliance Coalition are on the right track. The
last time unemployment was this low I was still in the Labour Party ...
" There are still serious challenges facing the economy which the Government has to address. No one
in the Government will be satisfied yet. There is still essential work to be completed to create more
jobs and rising incomes for all New Zealanders, particularly in the regions."
Jim Anderton, Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Alliance
" The latest labour force data is positive but no cause for complacency ... the Government has
no intention of easing off on our strategy to improve skill levels and to secure sustainable job growth.
The figures show that to improve the economy we need to improve the performance of some regions
and the job prospects of youth, Maori and Pacific Island peoples. The regionalisation of the Department
of Work and Income to work with local employers and the Industry Training Review will target
Steve Maharey, Minister of Employment
" The latest quarterly figures have reversed the negative trend of the first six months under
Labour. However it will take a few more HLFS surveys to determine whether this represents a new
improving trend, or a statistical hiccup. Either way, Labour still has a long way to go to match the 38,000 new
jobs a year created on average for the eight years between September 1991 and September 1999
under National- led governments."
Bob Simcock, National Party Employment Spokesman
"The figures show there is more confidence in the employer community than is
perhaps revealed in some confidence surveys..."
Peter Conway, Council of Trade Unions economist.
" The increase in the unemployment rate for Maori and Pacific Islanders, in a quarter where
official unemployment has fallen is a serious warning, and an indication that the Government's closing the
gaps on Maori and the rest has achieved nothing despite a year of rhetoric."
Dr Muriel Newman, ACT Employment Spokesperson
" This week's employment figure is so out of keeping with some other perceptions of the economy
that it has already been suggested that it's a bung number. If it is genuine - and logic would seem to
dictate that it should be more robust than your average business confidence survey - then it's extremely
significant. It also calls into question exactly what it is that business confidence surveys measure.
" Good economic news is always tricky for Opposition parties, but National received it with
some grace. Act's Muriel Newman, however, went through the extraordinary contortion of finding bad
news in the numbers by highlighting the slight rise in Maori and Pacific Island unemployment. That that
number should rise while overall unemployment falls is indeed cause for concern. But to see Act sounding
the alarm over the Gap it has spent all year insisting doesn't exist and therefore doesn't require closing is
a tiny bit rich, don't you think?"
Russell Brown, Hard News
- MAYORS MEET DEPARTMENTAL HEADS
The Mayors Taskforce for Jobs has met with seven government departmental
heads at a special forum at the Wellington City Council on 3 November. The meeting is the last in
a series of consultation forums that the Taskforce has held this year.
Next week, the Taskforce will meet again in Wellington to workshop strategies for
their local employment action plans. The Mayors will be both challenging and supporting
each other to pursue the Taskforce's first goal that, by 2005, no young person under 25 years
will be out of work or training in their communities.
- The list of departmental heads who met with the Mayors Taskforce
included: Christine Rankin, Winz CEO and
Ray Smith, Winz National Commissioner; Max
Kerr, General Manager of Skill NZ; Sue
Mackwell, Senior Manager with the Ministry of
Social Policy; Roger Wigglesworth, Ministry of Economic Development;
Charlie Moore, General Manager of the Community Employment Group (CEG) and
Geoff Bascand, General Manager of the Labour Market Policy Group (LMPG).
The Taskforce meeting was chaired by Jill
White (Mayor of Palmerston North), and also attended by
Mark Blumsky (Wellington), Garry
Moore (Christchurch), John Chaffey (Hurunui),
Tim Shadbolt (Invercargill), Frana
Cardno (Southland), Basil Morrison (Hauraki),
Jenny Brash (Porirua), and Yvonne
Sharp (Far North).
- HOW MANY MODERN APPRENTICESHIPS CAN WE ACHIEVE?
One of the most publicly popular government initiatives this year has been
the launch of the Modern Apprenticeships programme run by Skill NZ (see
The Jobs Letter No. 121). The programme is aimed at young people under the age of 21, and engages a variety
of organisations to offer co-ordination services to support employers in offering
At the Mayors Taskforce meeting, Skill NZ General Manager Max Kerr reported that
the programme will provide 3,000 apprenticeship training places by 2002, and will cost $4m
this financial year, rising to $12m in 2001-2.
Skill NZ has set itself strategic goals which are very similar to that of the
Mayors Taskforce. The agency seeks to ensure that, by 2005, every young person leaving school
will have access to a range of further education and workplace learning pathways, and every adult in
the labour market will have the opportunity to participate in education and training leading to
nationally recognised skills and qualifications.
Max Kerr commented at the meeting that, in the early 1980s, there were 25,000
New Zealanders in apprenticeships ... although he doubted that his agency would be able to
reach such numbers today. His guess is that a realistic target would be about
10-15,000 apprenticeships. He says that while the concept of apprenticeships was popular
older generations, a problem is that apprenticeships haven't been promoted in schools as a
viable pathway to further training and a career.
- The other obvious challenge will be whether government will allocate
enough resources to Skill NZ in order for the training agency to reach its strategic goals. Even with
an allocation of $12m for 3,000 places (in 2002), the Modern Apprenticeships scheme will
be very much the poorer cousin of the other Skill NZ schemes. The government
financial allocations to Skill NZ for this year include: $65m for Youth Training (aimed at people
under 18 yrs with low educational qualifications); $97m for Training Opportunities (for longer
term unemployed people with low educational qualifications); and $70m for Industry
Training (mostly provided in the workplace).
Sources The Jobs Letter editor Vivian Hutchinson, attended the Taskforce meeting of the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs 3
November 2000. "Background material for Mayors Taskforce for Jobs" by Max Kerr general manager of Skill New Zealand 3
- UNIONS FOR JOBS
The Trade Union Federation (TUF) has proposed an initiative for industry
and employment development called "Unions for Jobs". The plan would see unions
support economic and regional development policies which promote job growth. TUF
President Maxine Gay has taken her ideas to the Council of Trade Unions, and hopes to present a
joint proposal to the Government within a couple of weeks.
Gay : " The Government needs to support workers and their unions to play a key role
in this long-awaited economic reconstruction. Union officials and delegates are well placed
to identify areas of job growth or barriers to growth in the firms and industrial sectors that
they work in, to promote a job growth consciousness in their workplaces and communities and
to provide early warning for firms in trouble."
"Trade unions in New Zealand have had neither the history nor opportunity
of consistent involvement in industry and employment strategies. This is markedly different
to the role of unions in economic development in other parts of the world, especially Europe.
It is in the interests of workers to ensure a growth in jobs, so that we move from a buyers' to
a sellers' market for labour. Trade unions must ensure the jobs created by regional,
economic and industry development policies are permanent and well paid, not casual and marginal."
- The TUF plan for "Unions for Jobs" has six key objectives:
to ensure that unions are motivated, resourced and trained to play an active role
in the Government's development and employment strategies
to help to identify and to train trade union representatives on regional
development, industry sector and employment promotion bodies and projects
to identify appropriate regions, communities, sectors and firms that may
require Government support
to harness the knowledge and ideas of workers, delegates and union officials for
job creation initiatives and input into wider regional and economic development decisions
to help to ensure the outcome of Government initiatives and spending is good
and sustainable jobs, and
to liaise with Maori, Pacific, women's, unemployed, business, local government and other
sector groups active in the Government's strategies.
Source New Zealand Herald "Dialogue: Unions have vital role in economic reconstruction" by Maxine Gay
- GOVERNMENT RELEASES EMPLOYMENT STRATEGY
The government has just released a summary of its overall "employment
strategy". The document entitled Opportunity, Capacity Participation Government Employment
Strategy 2000 has been produced to bring together the myriad of government policies
and programmes that impact on its employment goals.
Employment Minister Steve Maharey says that the strategy is about a "whole
of government" approach in which "policies are mutually reinforcing across
portfolios". Maharey: "The strategy is part of a process by which policymakers and those tasked
with implementing policies are required to continually bring one question to the fore: What
will this intervention do to grow the economy and grow jobs?"
- The document contains no surprises and comes with a fair dose of current
public service jargon. It is essentially a summary of existing government programmes aimed
at "minimising disadvantages" to people in the labour market and "maximising their
potential" through education and training initiatives.
What is new is that the Cabinet has decided to put in place a monitoring regime to
assess the government's performance against its overall employment strategy. In future, any
major policy proposals that impact on employment will include a clear assessment for Cabinet
on how the policies will affect jobs. Progress on government actions and initiatives will
be reported on at the end of June and December each year, and the actual
employment outcomes from the strategy will be reported at the end of September.
- A copy of the employment strategy document can be downloaded from
Steve Maharey's ministerial website at
Source Opportunity, Capacity. Participation Government Employment Strategy 2000 (September 2000) from Steve
Maharey Minister of Social Services and Employment.
- 2,000 RURAL JOBS IN SOUTH ISLAND
Federated Farmers in the South Island estimates that 2,000 extra farm workers
are needed as good weather and the low exchange rate create a rural boom on dairy, sheep
and beef farms. The increased profitability on the land means that farmers who cut back
on labour during several tough seasons are now looking to employ more staff. But many of
the farm workers who had lost their jobs in recent years have found other work.
Federated Farmers general policy manager Gavin Forrest says that the usual reliance
on local young people coming through and going to work on farms isn't keeping pace with
the demand for staff. He says that part of the problem is that young people have a
poor perception of farming as a career. Forrest: "There are some good wages and in the
dairy industry there is a good career structure and the ability to become a sharemilker and
own your own farm. But its not the first career option that leaps out at people. We don't
believe farming is portrayed in a good light by many of the schools."
- The government's $5m Sustainable Farming Fund is helping train farmers to be
good employers, paying for a study of employment conditions on dairy farms and funding
school visits to promote farming as a career. However, Agriculture Minister Jim Sutton says
that more improvements could be made to rural employment conditions with better housing
and more time off for young workers.
Source The Christchurch Press 7 November 2000 "Rural lift creates 2000 jobs" by Seth Robson
- FORESTRY JOBS HIT A LOG-JAM
The Forestry industry is another sector facing staff and skill shortages after laying off many
workers during the Asian currency crisis in 1997. Simon Collins, in the
New Zealand Herald Jobs Challenge feature series, reports that trees maturing in the next six years could transform the two regions with
the highest unemployment. But Collins says the industry is facing the consequences of years of
under-investment in the roads required to get the logs to ports, under-developed opportunities in
international markets, and a critical shortage of skilled labour, despite the forests being in regions "swarming
with jobless workers".
- On the East Coast, where 2,800 people were unemployed in the last census,
the amount of maturing wood available for harvesting will quadruple by 2006. With
continued planting and 60 per cent local processing, the Forestry industry says 19,000 jobs could
be created in the region by 2030, almost doubling the region's present total employment.
In Northland, where 5,000 people are unemployed, maturing wood available for
harvest will more than treble by 2006 enough to at least treble the region's 1,545 forestry
and processing jobs.
Trainees working in forestry companies have doubled in the past four years and
41 apprentices have been signed up since late July under the new Modern
Apprenticeship scheme. But Forest Industries Training chief executive John Blakey says "we are running
into a bit of a brick wall in terms of getting people."
- In a hard-hitting submission to the Government, the East Coast Forestry
Industries Group warns that if it cannot get trained workers through a proposed state-subsidised,
fast-tracked scheme, it will seek to import labour from Fiji and the Philippines. The
Forestry Group has asked the Government for $1.9 million to subsidise the wages of 80
silvicultural trainees for six months.
- Geoff Fisher, a former forestry trainer and forest manager in Rotorua, argues
that "the market" has not delivered a favourable situation to the long-term interests of
either investors in the forestry industry, nor the workforce. He says it is time for the forestry
owners to pay higher wages and create better career security.
He notes that, at the rates of pay prevailing in 1999, a silvicultural worker might make
as little as $300 for a hard week's work adding value to plantations of radiata pine. He says
that affordable wages for skilled workers should be closer to $1,000 a week, while
maintaining traditional rates of return on capital for forest owners.
Fischer says that, in the Forest Service era (pre-1987), "woodsman" (a skilled
forest labourer) and "ranger" (a forest technician) were coveted career positions which
offered security, exposure to a wide range of forest types and operations, and the possibility
of advancement to senior management positions. But under the prevailing short-term
contract system today, there is little variety, less security and no clearly defined career path.
- Visit our "Jobs Challenge" page at http://www.jobsletter.org.nz/nzh2000.htm
for further links to articles in the New Zealand
Herald special series.
Sources New Zealand Herald 4 November 2000 "Log-jam looms as jobs in forestry go begging" by Simon Collins;
New Zealand Herald 10 November 2000 "Time for forest owners to pay for their profits" by Geoff Fischer.
- IT SHORTAGES IN WELLINGTON
The recruitment agency Morgan & Banks says that Wellington is facing a
"massive shortage" of information technology (IT) skills which will be exacerbated by news of a
multi-million-dollar joint venture between Ericsson and Wellington software company
Synergy. About 100 of the 150 new jobs in the venture will be based in Wellington, but the
recruitment agency says that rapid growth in Wellington's IT and telecommunications sectors
has outstripped the local labour supply. Many of the workers will have to be brought in
from other cities around NZ, and from overseas.
Morgan & Banks Wellington manager Paul Jury is also pointing to pay rates as a problem in
attracting and retaining staff. He says, at the top end of the market, pay rates in NZ are often less than half
of what skilled workers can earn overseas. The challenge for Wellington is to sell its lifestyle to IT
workers "... because the income is often not as attractive."
Source Evening Post 7 November 2000 "We've got the jobs but not the people" by Perry Williams.
- US "SECOND CHANCE" JOB OPPORTUNITIES
"Second Chance" jobs in the US. The United States is going through its
longest stretch of economic growth ever nearly ten years and counting and the
unemployment rate is at 3.9%, a 30-year low. American employers are so desperate for workers that they
are now going out of their way to recruit people they wouldn't normally consider
ex-convicts, former gang members and recovering drug addicts.
The Associated Press in Chicago reports that an increasing number of employers
are posting fliers in halfway houses and offering college tuition reimbursements.
Some companies, like the United Parcel Service, even have recruiting vans that roam
city neighbourhoods in search of applicants. And among the more popular methods
of recruitment are "Second Chance" Job Fairs, organised by state and private agencies,
where employers are linked to hundreds of job seekers who are also ex-offenders.
Source Associate Press Chicago 10 November 2000 "Job Opportunities rise for ex-Cons" by Martha Irvine
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