Finance minister Bill English is pushing on with the government’s plans to help business make employment decisions, despite a 13-year high in unemployment figures.
Statistics New Zealand’s latest household labour force numbers show people out of work rose to 7.3% in the September quarter.
As expected, the number has been seized on by Labour leader David Shearer and other opposition MPs, who say prime minister John Key’s legacy is leaving the highest jobless rate since Jenny Shipley’s National government in the late 1990s.
Mr English has partially blamed the struggles Britain, US and Europe continue to face.
“That’s having a bit more of an impact on us than we expected and shows it’s reasonably tough for people in the job market,” he says.
He accepts the economy is a lot softer now than it has been in recent months, but says the unexpected jump in jobless figures is at odds with other figures he has seen, such as a fall in unemployment benefit figures.
Mr English says Auckland is driving the unemployment rate, but he is at a loss to explain why the benefit numbers there have been falling.
He is again relying on the Christchurch rebuild to stimulate job growth, with the recruitment drive on to find 1000 additional contractors.
The fluctuating job market does not wash with Green MP Metiria Turei, who says it is the third rise over the last three quarters.
“There is no plan to create or stimulate jobs in this economy by this government. They keep claiming businesses create jobs and therefore they have very little role in it, but actually they set the economic settings.
“They are obsessed with industries which are highly extractive – are very much 20th century industries, not 21st century industries.”
Mr Shearer agrees the latest figures are “disastrous” and does not believe National has a plan to help out business owners.
“What’s the plan? More unemployment? So far their plan has driven unemployment up rather than down. I remain completely unconvinced.”
Mr English was unclear about how many jobs the government had created in the past two years, despite promising last year to create 170,000 new jobs over four years.
“I couldn’t give the precise numbers now. I’ll have another look at that in the half-year update, which will be published in December.”
Meanwhile, a new Kelly global workforce index survey shows New Zealand’s workforce is one of the oldest in the world.
The index surveyed 3500 people and showed the mean age of New Zealand’s workforce is 35.2, compared to 31.9 throughout the rest of Asia Pacific.