National exploits fudged Statistics NZ unemployment figures

By   /   August 15, 2016  /   41 Comments

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A person job-searching using the internet was “not actively seeking work“. Predictably, at the stroke of a pen, unemployment “fell” over-night from 5.7% to 5.2%.

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three-types-of-lies-lies-damned-lies-and-statistics

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On 3 July, this blogger reported how Statistics NZ had radically changed the manner in which it defined a jobseeker;

“Change: Looking at job advertisements on the internet is correctly classified as not actively seeking work. This change brings the classification in line with international standards and will make international comparability possible.

Improvement: Fewer people will be classified as actively seeking work, therefore the counts of people unemployed will be more accurate.”

Statistics NZ explained the ramifications of the “revised” definition of unemployment ;

  • Decreases in the number of people unemployed and the unemployment rate

  • Changes to the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate range from 0.1 to 0.6 percentage points. In the most recent published quarter (March 2016), the unemployment rate is revised down from 5.7 percent to 5.2 percent 

  • Increases in the number of people not in the labour force 

  • Decreases in the size of the labour force and the labour force participation rate

A person  job-searching using the internet  was “not actively seeking work“. Predictably, at the stroke of a pen, unemployment “fell” over-night from 5.7% to 5.2%.

It was “manna from heaven” for the incumbent government which has  been besieged on several fronts for worsening social and economic indicators.

Despite being little more than a dressed-up “accounting trick”, politicians could claim with a straight-face that “unemployment was falling”.

Which did not take long.

Statistics NZ announced it’s changes on 29 June 2016.

Four days later, our esteemed Dear Leader, John  Key, gloated on TVNZ’s Q+A  to Corin Dann;

“The unemployment rate in New Zealand is now falling pretty dramatically.”

Of course unemployment was falling “pretty dramatically”. Government statisticians were ‘cooking’ the numbers.

By August, both Key and Bill English were joyfully quoting the “new unemployment stats”.

On 8 August, Key was quoted on Interest.co.nz;

“On the other side, we need these people in an environment where unemployment is 5.2% and where growth is still very, very strong. You’ve just got to be careful when you play around with these things that you don’t hamstring certain industries that need these workers.”

So not only was Key quoting the”new, revised” unemployment stats – but his government was now actively predicating their immigration policy on the bogus data.

Three  days later, in Parliament, English also gleefully congratulated himself on the “fall” in unemployment;

“The Reserve Bank is forecasting an increase of about 1 percent more growth in the economy over the next 3 years, compared with what it thought 3 months ago. It is forecasting that unemployment is going to continue falling from 5.2 percent this year to 4.5 percent by 2019 and that job numbers will increase by more than 2 percent on average over the next 2 years. A significant component of that, of course, will be the construction boom, where thousands of houses will be built over the next 2 or 3 years. These forecasts are in line with Treasury’s forecast for the labour market and show an economy that is delivering more jobs, lower unemployment, and real increases in incomes when in many developed countries that is not happening.”

Whilst it is expected for politicians to mis-use questionable data for their own self-aggrandisement (and re-election chances), worse was to come.

On 10 August,  Radio NZ‘s Immigration Reporter, Gill Bonnett, reported;

“The unemployment rate stood at 5.2 percent for the three months ended in March.”

Bonnett did not  quote a reference source for that statement.

It is unfortunate that some journalists seem unaware of the new ‘regime’ which portrays unemployment lower than it actually is. The fact that Statistics NZ has ‘fudged’ their  data which now skews unemployment should be common knowledge throughout the mainstream media.

Especially when government ministers are now “patting themselves on the back” for a “fall” in unemployment that never happened.

The new unemployment figures are not factual. They are a fiction.

Journalists need to know the difference.

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Addendum1 – a letter to the public

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Listener <letters@listener.co.nz>
date: Sun, Aug 14, 2016
subject: Letter to the editor

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The editor
The Listener

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On 29 June, Statistics NZ announced that it would be “revising” the definition of unemployment. It stated that “looking at job advertisements on the internet is … not actively seeking work”.

The consequence, as Statistics NZ pointed out, would be a “decrease in the number of people unemployed and the unemployment rate”. Accordingly, SNZ revised down the March Quarter unemployment rate from 5.7% to 5.2%.

It did not take long for politicians to realise and exploit the benefits of this revision. On August 8, our esteemed Prime Minister cited the “fall” in unemployment;

“On the other side, we need these people in an environment where unemployment is 5.2% and where growth is still very, very strong…”

Three days later, Bill English also referenced the new figure;

“The Reserve Bank… is forecasting that unemployment is going to continue falling from 5.2 percent this year to 4.5 percent by 2019…”

Even Radio NZ’s Gill Bonnett quoted the “revised” figure in a story on 10 August;

“The unemployment rate stood at 5.2 percent for the three months ended in March.”

The irony is that whilst Statistics NZ plays with phantom numbers to suit itself, the unemployed do not find their circumstances improved one iota.

Changing the numbers does not change people’s real lives.
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-Frank Macskasy

[address & phone number supplied]

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Addendum2 – Statistics NZ’s other Dodgy Definitions

According to Statistics NZ, you are deemed to be employed if you;

  • worked for one hour or more for pay or profit in the context of an employee/employer relationship or self-employment
  • worked without pay for one hour or more in work which contributed directly to the operation of a farm, business, or professional practice owned or operated by a relative

How many people are deemed to be “employed” by Statistics NZ, even though they may be working one hour per week, with or without pay?

Statistics NZ’s employment/unemployment figures are utterly unreliable.

At best, they show the minimum number of unemployed in this country and most likely do not reflect reality.

Addendum3

As this blogger reported back  on 12 February 2014;

Roy Morgan poll has un-employment in New Zealand steady at 8.5%, with a further 11.3% under-employed. Collectively,  19.8% of the workforce (519,000, up 69,000)  were either unemployed or under-employed. For the December Quarter 2013, according to Roy Morgan:

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New Zealand real unemployment steady at 8.5%

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By contrast, the last Household Labour Force Survey (September 2013 quarter) reported 6.2% unemployed, and the 2013 Census survey gave a figure of 7.1%.

Roy Morgan’s polling to determine New Zealand’s unemployment rate yielded a figure 2.3 percentage-points higher than Statistics NZ’s Household Labour Force Survey.

Roy Morgan’s polling for the  previous December Quarter for 2012 yielded a similar story. Polling revealed a staggering 9.4% unemployed, with a further 11.6% under-employed. By contrast, Statistics NZ’s  figures for the December 2012 Quarter was 6.9% – 2.5 percentage points lower than Roy Morgan’s.

Curiously, Statistics NZ reports – but does not appear to analyse or question – their own conflicting data;

  • The number of people employed decreased by 23,000 (down 1.0 percent).
  • The labour force participation rate fell 1.2 percentage points, to 67.2 percent.
  • The number of people in the labour force decreased by 33,000.

So despite the unemployment rate for the December 2012 Quarter apparently falling “0.4 percentage points, to 6.9 percent” – the actual number of people in work did not increase – it  also fell.

There appears to be a solid disconnect between Statistics NZ’s own figures.

Considering the dodgy definitions being used by Statistics NZ, Roy Morgan may prove to be closer to reality than we realise.

Clearly our real unemployment rate is being masked by unrealistic definitions.

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References

Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey – Revisions to labour market estimates

TVNZ: Q+A – Interview with John Key

Interest.co.nz: Key deflects calls for migration review; says migration needed with 5.2% unemployment

Scoop media: Parliament – Questions & Answers – 11 August 2016

Radio NZ: NZ visa numbers reach ‘staggering’ record high

Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey

Statistics NZ: 2013 Census QuickStats about national highlights

Roy Morgan: New Zealand real unemployment up 0.6% to 9.4% & a further 11.6% of workforce under-employed – the highest recorded

Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey – December 2012 quarter

Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey – September 2013 quarter

Previous related blogposts

Roy Morgan Poll: Unemployment and Under-employment up in New Zealand!

Lies, Damned lies and Statistical Lies

Lies, Damned lies and Statistical Lies – ** UPDATE **

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why aren't all new zealanders so gullible

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41 Comments

  1. Afewknowthetruth says:

    Continuous lying by government officials is now the norm, almost everywhere.

    Chris Martenson (of Crash Course fame) devoted an entire chapter to Fuzzy Numbers -how the government fudges numbers to make factors look better than they actually are and make the government look good as it actually makes matters worse by the day.

    http://www.peakprosperity.com/crashcourse/chapter-16-fuzzy-numbers

    • Michelle says:

      Yes they( the pnats ) have been fuzing numbers from day one the opposition parties need to do there home work in this area before the next general election and show them up. They need to compile a comprehensive lists of all the promises that have not been delivered and there is many so they shouldn’t have any trouble doing this.

  2. david says:

    My understanding is that the changes were instigated by statastics NZ to conform to international standards.

    I think a better measure is workforce participation rates. Otherwise you have governments increasing ‘in training’ and sickness beneficiary numbers to mask statistics.

    from oecd 2013 for example
    Switzerland 83.3%
    NZ 77.9
    UK 77.2
    Australia 76.4
    G7 73.5
    US 72.8
    EU 72.7
    Italy 64.3

    • Groucho Marxist says:

      Do the other countries measure workforce participation commencing at one hour a week? That includes one hour of unpaid work in a family business in case you didn’t realise.

      BS statistics.

    • Samwise says:

      Yeah, nah, saying its “conforming to international standards”doesn’t cut it, David. All it means is that internationally, unemployment rates are higher than the West admits. It just shows none of the stats can be trusted.

      The evidence is fairly clear, unemployment is higher than Stats NZ has shown.

      • david says:

        If you are intelligent, one has to take account of all the statistics. How they are collated and biases.
        People using just the unemployment number as a measure are naive. Though from 1990s to 2000s the numbers on the invalids benefits skyrocketed.

        As long method of information collection is consistent, that is the most important.

        How do we compare internationally?
        unemployment/workforce participation
        NZ 5.7% (march 2016); 68.7

        Australia 5.8%; 64.9
        Canada 6.9%; 65.4
        UK 4.9%; 78.4
        US 4.9%; 62.8
        EU 10.1 56.8
        France 10.2; 56.1
        Sweden 7.6; 64.3

        Having more info gives a better picture. I suspect in the US, alot of people have given up looking for work and then not considered not unemployed.
        France/EU is just shit anyway you look at it.

    • Mike in Auckland says:

      “statastics NZ” – do you perhaps mean Sadistics NZ?

  3. WILD KATIPO says:

    Hahahaa…don’t you just love it?… the neo liberal thief will do anything to cover their tracks.

    This neo liberal govt is no different.

    Far right wing fanatics.

    So , so , so insecure and full of anxiety about being caught out in their lies.

    • Gosman says:

      What by abiding by international standards? Yes how terrible must someone be to do that?

      • Gosman – have you considered that “international standards” may also be flawed?

        Think it through for yourself. Do you really believe that a jobless person looking for work, using the internet, should not be counted as unemployed? (Considering the vital role played by the internet in the 21st Century.)

        Because I’ll tell you this; it may serve this National/ACT government to welcome these dodgy statistics. It makes them look “good”.

        But have you thought that a future Labour-led government can do likewise? Dodgy stats can make them look “good” as well.

        So which would you prefer; statistics that are a fantasy, or which reflect reality?

        Your call.

        • Gosman says:

          I’m happy if Statistics NZ (which is very independent from political interference) keeps up with internationally recognized standards. They are standards for a reason.

          • In which case, Gosman, you readily accept that under these “standards”, the lowest rate of unemployment was under a Labour government in the December 2007 Quarter, at 3.4%?

            ref: http://www.stuff.co.nz/257390/Unemployment-falls-to-record-low

            Do you still believe that figure to be true?

            • Gosman says:

              In the most recent past. However I believe that the unemployment rate was even lower in the 1960’s under a National government. However I’m not sure what your point is.

              • However I believe that the unemployment rate was even lower in the 1960’s under a National government.

                Yes, Gosman, you’re quite correct. It was commonly said that in the 1950s and ’60s, the Minister of Labour knew each unemployed person by name.

                Things changed after the Second Oil Shock impacted on our economy, and became much worse after your party-founder, Roger Douglas, implemented neo-liberal reforms in the late ’80s.

                However I’m not sure what your point is.

                Perhaps you should re-read it.

              • Priss says:

                Comprehension.

                Not one of your strong points, is it, Gosman?

          • Jane B says:

            Gosman, your said”I’m happy if Statistics NZ (which is very independent from political interference) keeps up with internationally recognized standards. They are standards for a reason.”

            Even if those standards are wrong???

            And do you support standards for worker’s rights, such as decent pay, conditions, and the right to engage in trade unions?

            Because if you don’t, you are being highly selective.

          • Samwise says:

            SO, Gosman, you’re happy with dodgy stats as long as they meet “international standards”?

            I hope you have the same respect for UN and ILO conventions on worker’s rights and environmental protection.

      • Mike in Auckland says:

        WTO standards are followed by some countries, not by others, such as for instance Germany, why?

        • Mike in Auckland says:

          ILO standards not WTO standards is what I really meant, they are the ones used internationally, to which Statistics NZ have now adjusted their measurements or counts, but one must ask, has the ILO got it right?

  4. Afewknowthetruth says:

    And now this piece saying much the same thing:

    http://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2016/08/14/how-long-can-economic-reality-be-ignored.html

    ……’As I have reported on many occasions, the Oligarchs’ government lies to us about everything, including economic statistics. For example, we are told that we have been enjoying an economic recovery since June, 2009, that we are more or less at full employment with an unemployment rate of 5% or less, and that there is no inflation. We are told this despite the facts that the “recovery” is based on the under-reporting of the inflation rate, the unemployment rate is 23%, and inflation is high.’………

  5. Theodore says:

    Well, I guess that makes it official. Deception is policy. Mis-information is the new norm.

  6. fatty says:

    Statistics NZ should be ashamed of itself.

    • CLEANGREEN says:

      Statistic’sNZ is just another tentacle of SS Joyce’s’ toolbox within his master Propaganda agency called ‘MBIE’ .

      This agency MBIE under a New Government must be closed down!!!!!
      Remember the MBIE “Nova Pay” mess they span as “nothing here, move along?”

  7. Mike in Auckland says:

    As far as I know, in countries like Germany they count you as unemployed if you work less than 15 hours a week and are looking for and available for work. NZ follows much lower standards, like in so much else.

    • Gosman says:

      As far as you know? Why can’t you find out for sure?

      • Mike in Auckland says:

        Here is the official explanation, Mr Gosman, please yourself:

        https://www.destatis.de/EN/FactsFigures/NationalEconomyEnvironment/LabourMarket/Methodology/ILO_LabourMarket.html

        “The unemployment definition based on the ILO criteria, which is required for international comparisons, differs from the definition of the number of registered unemployed according to the German Social Security Code (SGB), which is the basis of the figures published by the Federal Employment Agency. For a person to be recorded as registered unemployed, the SGB requires that the person is registered with an employment agency or a local institution and seeks an employment of at least 15 hours per week. In line with the SGB, it is however possible to perform a job of less than 15 hours for additional earnings despite being registered as unemployed.”

        • Sally's Husband says:

          “Here is the official explanation, Mr Gosman, please yourself”

          He needs his hand held. Or Big Bad Bogeyman will get him.

  8. Mike the Lefty says:

    Who can guess what the unemployment rate would be if they measured “real” jobs?.

  9. Priss says:

    I heard Grant Robertson on Morning Report this morning also condemning Stats NZ’s “new definition” of unemployment.

    At this rate, the HLFS will become a meaningless joke.

  10. Takere says:

    Straight from the Horses Mouth … MSD Benefit Fact Sheet(s).
    Unemployed JobSeekers that aren’t counted in latest fig for June 93,100.
    Number in receipt of a benefit 280,177 = 9.9% of the eligible workforce in receipt of a benefit not in employment.

  11. Stuart Munro says:

    “The National Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power.”

  12. Jane B says:

    The latest unemployment stats are out. They can’t be trusted, according to Frank’s expose on this issue.

  13. […] Frank picked up the story again this week and Grant Robertson followed that up. […]

  14. Priss says:

    I’ve been listening to this on Radio New Zealand as well. Nothing on TV news, unless I missed it. It’ll be interesting if Q+A or The Nation pick up on it.

    Hope they ask you to be part of any discussion, Frank! It is scandalous that in the Age of the Internet, Stats NZ refuses to acknowledge or recognise that a significant number of jobless will be looking for work through online websites.

    Just where does Stats NZ have it’s head these days?

  15. […] blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 15 August […]

  16. Helena says:

    I look forward to the day when no one has to work and we are spiritually advanced enough to manifest want we need (as opposed to want) : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gGPL4bko7bw
    😀

  17. ***Update***: It seems the Government Statistician, Liz MacPherson, takes exception to the suggestion that the “new revised definition” of unemployed persons is fudging the numbers;

    ref: http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/political/311149/statistician-denies-political-interference-over-job-seeker-figures


 
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