Employment growth shows strong economy heading into COVID-19

  • Hon Grant Robertson

News that nearly 20,000 New Zealanders entered work in the first three months of the year shows the economy’s underlying strength heading into COVID-19, Finance Minister Grant Robertson says.

Stats NZ reported today that the number of employed people rose by 19,000 over the March quarter, while the number of unemployed was up by only 5,000. The employment rate rose to 67.5%, while the unemployment rate also rose slightly from 4% to 4.2%, remaining near its lowest levels in a decade.

Wages were also rising at an annual rate of 3.6%, with average ordinary time hourly earnings up to $33.14. This was well above inflation at 2.5%.

“The numbers show that this Government’s economic plan has been working, as businesses had the confidence to increase employment and invest in their workforces by raising wages,” Grant Robertson said.

“Obviously much has changed in the last six weeks in New Zealand. While these numbers reflect the position New Zealand was in before the worst of COVID-19, they show we were in a strong position. The amazing work all New Zealanders have done through Level 4 and Level 3 to stay home and break the chain of transmission now means we’re well-placed to get a head start on our economic recovery.”

The Government’s focus is on cushioning the blow of COVID-19 on the economy by supporting businesses with cashflow and helping workers maintain or find employment.

“We do know that this global 1-in-100 year health and economic crisis will contribute to unemployment rising further. The investments we’ve already put in place are designed to minimise these impacts, and support those who are out of work to find new employment.

“We went hard and early in our economic response, putting in place the wage subsidy scheme to protect jobs and incomes. The scheme has paid out more than $10.6 billion, covering the wages of more than 1.7 million workers.

“Our $3 billion tax refund scheme put into law last week will start paying out in coming days to support viable businesses with cashflow and costs like rent. This is being complemented by the Small Business Cashflow Loan scheme, the Business Finance Guarantee and a range of tax measures to encourage investment.”