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New Zealand Q4 Unemployment Rate Rises To 4.3%

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The jobless rate in New Zealand was a seasonally adjusted 4.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018, Statistics New Zealand said on Thursday - above forecasts for 4.1 percent and up from 3.9 percent in the three months prior.

Employment was up 0.1 percent on quarter and 2.3 percent on year - short of forecasts for gains of 0.3 percent on quarter and 2.6 percent on year. Employment was up 1.1 percent on quarter and 2.8 percent on year in the third quarter.

The participation rate came in at 70.9 percent, shy of expectations for 71.1 percent - which would have been unchanged.

Labor costs for the private sector and wages excluding overtime both were unchanged at 0.5 percent on quarter - although both missed expectations for 0.6 percent.

Average hourly earnings climbed 1.0 percent on quarter, exceeding forecasts for a gain of 0.8 percent but still down from 1.4 percent in the previous three months.

The unemployment rate for men rose to 4.4 percent (up from 3.9 percent). For women, it rose to 4.2 percent (up from 4.0 percent). This was the first time since the June 2010 quarter the rate was lower for women than men.

There were 10,000 more people unemployed in the latest quarter, to reach 120,000. This largely reflected more men being unemployed - up 8,000 to 65,000. There were also 2,000 more unemployed women - up to 55,000.

The underutilization rate rose to 12.1 percent, up from 11.4 percent last quarter. This rise mainly reflected higher unemployment and underemployment.

In the December 2018 quarter, the employment rate fell to 67.8 percent, down from its peak of 68.2 percent in the September 2018 quarter.

Annually, private sector wage inflation was higher than in the public sector: private sector wages increased 2.0 percent; and public sector wages increased 1.7 percent.

Annually, the industries with the largest contributions to the growth in hourly earnings were: professional, scientific, technical, administrative, and support services industry - up $1.48 (4.3 percent); healthcare - up $1.26 (4.0 percent); and construction - up $1.22 (4.3 percent).

Average weekly earnings (including overtime) for full-time equivalent employees (FTEs) also increased on an annual basis - up 2.9 percent to NZ$1,227.85.

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