2016 – Ongoing jobless tally and why unemployment statistics will no longer be used

By   /   November 9, 2016  /   20 Comments

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This blogger previously reported how Statistics NZ recently implemented a so-called “revision” which would materially affect how unemployment stats were counted and reported;

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Continued from: 2015 – Ongoing jobless tally

So by the numbers, for this year;

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Events

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January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

October

November

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Statistics

This blogger previously reported how Statistics NZ recently implemented a so-called “revision” which would materially affect how unemployment stats were counted and reported;

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On 29 June 2016, Statistic NZ announced that it would be changing 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.

The statement went on to explain;

Change in key labour market estimates:

  • 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

The result of this change? At the stroke of a pen, unemployment fell from 5.7% to 5.2%;

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And on-cue, National was quick to capitalise on Statistics NZ’s figure-fudging;

On 2/3 July, TV3’s The Nation, Dear Leader Key told Corin Dann;

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

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.”

On 12 August, 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.”

The latest Statistics NZ (soon to be re-branded Ministry of Truth) unemployment figures showed another “fall”. The unemployment rate for the September 2016 Quarter is now purportedly 4.9%;

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Can that figure – 4.9% – be trusted?

When Statistics NZ “re-jigged” its criteria for measuring unemployment in June, unemployment dropped from 5.7% to 5.2% (subsequently revised again to 5.1%);

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Predictably, National were quick to once again exploit the September statistics, as their Twitter-feed showed on 2 November;

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And three days later;

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national-party-twitter-5-nov-2016-unemployment

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It’s all nonsense, of course – made worse by Statistics NZ’s other dodgy criteria used when considering their definition what constitutes being “employed”;

Employed: people in the working-age population who, during the reference week, did one of the following:

  • 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

Statistics NZ’s mis-representation of our “low unemployment” environment has gone largely unnoticed and unchallenged. No one in the mainstream media has picked up on the questionable data;

This meant the size of the labour force rose 33,000 and unemployment fell by just 3,000 to 128,000. The unemployment rate fell to 4.9% from a revised 5.0% in the June quarter. This was the lowest unemployment rate since the December quarter of 2008. Unemployment has fallen by 7,000 over the last year and is up 1,000 from two years ago.Interest.co.nz

Unemployment has fallen below 5 percent for the first time in nearly eight years thanks to the growing economy, but it is still not translating into booming wages. Official figures show the unemployment rate declined to 4.9 percent in the three months to September, or 128,000 people, the lowest rate since December 2008.Radio NZ

According to Statistics New Zealand, the unemployment rate fell to 4.9% in the September 2016 quarter. This is the lowest unemployment rate since the December 2008 quarter. There were 3,000 fewer people unemployed than in the June 2016 quarter and 10,000 fewer over the year.Maori TV

The unemployment rate has fallen to 4.9 percent for the September 2016 quarter, according to new figures from Statistics NZ. That’s the lowest it’s been since December 2008. – TV3 News

New Zealand’s unemployment rate fell below 5 percent for the first time since December 2008 as employers took on more staff than expected, although that didn’t spur wages to rise at a faster pace. The kiwi dollar rose on the figures. The unemployment rate fell to 4.9 percent in the three months ended Sept. 30 from a revised 5 percent rate in June, Statistics New Zealand said.Sharechat

New Zealand has recorded its best unemployment rate in almost eight years with third quarter figures falling to a better than expected 4.9 per cent. The jobless rate declined from a revised 5.0 per cent in the June quarter, according to Stats NZ, taking it to its lowest point since December 2008. – NZCity/NZ News

New Zealand’s unemployment rate fell below 5 per cent for the first time since December 2008 as employers took on more staff than expected, although that didn’t spur wages to rise at a faster pace. The kiwi dollar rose on the figures.

The unemployment rate fell to 4.9 per cent in the three months ended September 30 from a revised 5 per cent rate in June, Statistics New Zealand said.NZ Herald

New Zealand’s unemployment rate fell more than expected in the third quarter to drop to 4.9 per cent – the lowest rate since last 2008. The jobless rate declined from a revised 5.0 per cent in the June quarter, according to Stats NZ taking it to its lowest point since the December quarter nearly eight years ago. There were 3,000 fewer people unemployed than in the previous quarter and 10,000 fewer over the year. – TVNZ News

Of course there were “3,000 fewer people unemployed than in the previous quarter and 10,000 fewer over the year“! Ten thousand unemployed people vanished from the data, at the click of a mouse, as Statistics NZ worked their “magic”.

Statistics NZ could potentially make unemployment vanish entirely, overnight, by changing the unemployment criteria to people with only two hearts and scaly blue skin.

Only Hamish Rutherford, at Fairfax media, pointed out the questionable value of Statistics NZ’s data;

Unemployment has fallen to the lowest level in almost eight years, as the economy creates more than 10,000 new jobs a month. Official figures show the unemployment rate dropped to 4.9 per cent in the the September quarter, the first time it has fallen below 5 per cent since December 2008.

Earlier this year Statistics New Zealand revised the way it conducts the quarterly household labour force survey (HLFS), in a bid to bring the survey more in line with international standards. However the changes mean Statistics New Zealand cannot make confident comparisons with all of the figures from previous surveys.

But even in Rutherford’s article, the all-important point of dodgy stats was lost amongst the ‘rah-rah‘ of the mythical drop in unemployment.

The Otago Daily Times made an even less impressive, passing, reference to Statistics NZ’s fudged figures;

Unemployment in New Zealand is at its lowest level since 2008 but there will be lingering concerns about the lack of wage growth and the impact this will have on the inflation outlook.

Statistics New Zealand has changed some of its survey data to measure unemployment and employment and those changes are still bedding in.Otago Daily Times

Government Statistician, Liz MacPherson, has rejected any suggestion of political partisanship in the way unemployment data is now being presented.

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She was defensive in the face of criticism from Labour’s Grant Robertson and on  16 August, Ms MacPherson stated;

Like my predecessors I am fiercely protective of the statutory independence of the role of the Government Statistician and strongly refute any assertions made by Grant Robertson that there has been political interference in the production of official statistics.

This independence means that I maintain the right to make changes necessary to ensure the relevance and quality of our official statistics. Changes to the Household Labour Force Survey have been made to ensure that we produce the best possible measure of the current state of the labour market and to maintain consistency with international best practice.

Far from ignoring technological change during the past 30 years, such as the advent of the internet, we are incorporating these changes so as to be technology neutral.

Within the survey questions, to be regarded as actively looking for a job you must do more than simply look at job advertisements, whether it is online or in a newspaper.

It is not uncommon for revisions to be made to official statistics as a result of more accurate information becoming available or changes to international standards and frameworks.

In addition we are introducing new measures – for example underutilisation – enabling a deeper, richer understanding of New Zealand’s labour market.

When this does occur it is standard practice for Statistics NZ to communicate reasons for revisions and anticipated changes well in advance of their official release, as we did on 29 June 2016. […]

Statistics NZ has a legislative obligation to release objective official statistics. We will continue to do this at all times.

One of many ironies not lost on this blogger is that other government departments extoll the virtues of jobseeking on-line. As CareersNZ and WINZ state the blindingly-obvious, “most job vacancies are listed online”;

Careersnz;

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WINZ;

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Ms MacPherson’s assertion that Statistics NZ has changed it’s definitions of unemployment and jobseeking  “to maintain consistency with international best practice” is not an acceptable explanation.

If “international best practice” does not recognise on-line jobseeking as constituting a definition of unemployment – then that in itself is worrying and suggests that global unemployment may be much, much higher than current international statistics portray.

As a consequence of Ms MacPherson’s decision to exclude on-line jobseekers from official stats, this blogger concludes that official unemployment data is  severely flawed and unrepresentative of our real unemployment numbers.

In simple terms; the numbers are a sham.

Unemployment statistics will no longer be presented in on-going up-dates of the Jobless Tally.

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This Statement has not been endorsed by MiniTruth (formerly StatsNZ)

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Addendum1: Definition of Employment

Employed: people in the working-age population who, during the reference week, did one of the following:

  • 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

  • had a job but were not at work due to: own illness or injury, personal or family responsibilities, bad weather or mechanical breakdown, direct involvement in an industrial dispute, or leave or holiday.

Source

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References

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

Scoop media: On The Nation – Patrick Gower interviews 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

Statistics NZ: Labour Market Statistics – September 2016 quarter

Statistics NZ: Labour Market Statistics – June 2016 quarter

Twitter: National (2 Nov)

Twitter: National (5 Nov)

Interest.co.nz: Jobs grew 35,000 or 1.4% in Sept quarter, but unemployment fell just 3,000 and jobless rate falls to 4.9%

Radio NZ: Unemployment drops to lowest level since 2008

Maori TV: Work force grows despite youth unemployment

TV3 News: Unemployment drops to lowest rate since 2008

Sharechat: NZ jobless rate falls below 5% for first time since 2008, wage inflation muted

NZCity/NZ News: Jobless rate falls to near eight-year low

NZ Herald: NZ jobless rate falls below 5 per cent for first time since 2008, wage inflation muted

TVNZ News: Unemployment rate falls to near eight-year low

Fairfax media: Unemployment drops to lowest level since 2008 on booming job creation

Otago Daily Times: Unemployment lowest in eight years

Radio NZ: Statistician denies political interference over job seeker figures

Statistics NZ: Government Statistician responds to Grant Robertson

Careersnz: Job hunting tips

Work and Income: Where to look

Additional

TVNZ: Q+A – Interview with John Key

Previous related blogpost

Lies, Damned lies and Statistical Lies

National exploits fudged Statistics NZ unemployment figures

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

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20 Comments

  1. Samwise says:

    The post-truth age is well and truly upon us. Statistics NZ should be ashamed of itself. BY corrupting unemployment data, they have played into the hands of this shabby government.

  2. Draco T Bastard says:

    You’ve got the definition of employment up there but what’s really needed to show the sham that the change in counting is is the definition of Unemployment:

    Unemployed: all people in the working-age population who during the reference week were without a paid job, available for work, and had either actively sought work in the past four weeks ending with the reference week, or had a new job to start within the next four weeks.

    Within the survey questions, to be regarded as actively looking for a job you must do more than simply look at job advertisements, whether it is online or in a newspaper.

    That’s ridiculous. If someone’s looking at job advertisements then they’re looking for a job. They’re certainly not looking at them for entertainment and if they weren’t looking for a job they wouldn’t even be seeing them. It’s actually amazing how difficult it is to actually find online job adverts. You have to actively go to the job sites and search that site just to even see job adverts. Even if the search is set up to be automated and emailed to the searcher the person would still be actively looking just to see them as you have to open the email.

    Now, there will be some people who are presently employed who don’t care if they find a job or not but they’re still looking. These people could probably be classified as not actively looking but they’d be the only ones. Of course, they’re also not counted as unemployed.

  3. Takere says:

    You didn’t include the raw data from MSD I sent you Frank?
    They can’t hide actual numbers in receipt of benefits.

    https://www.msd.govt.nz/about-msd-and-our-work/publications-resources/statistics/benefit/index.html

    • andrew says:

      Takere:

      One of the aspects of the benefit rules is that unemployed can do a bit of part time work each week to top up their benefit without getting their dole cut.

      This is quite common and I know people who are on benefit and do a day or two of work at the local supermarket to top up their dole. They steadfastly refuse to do a full weeks work, despite having the opportunity, preferring instead to be (dare I say it?) lazy.

      So whilst true unemployment is down under 5% this figure is masking a large number of workshy people who getting their full dole and also working.

      • Andrew. Your not just lying you are wrong. Everything you’ve ever said is complete fantasy.

        Those same people you like to mock who are low skilled low wage workers migrate on droves and still do to Australia to become successful immigrants living in Australia and WHY? Because remember there is no dole for Kiwis here.

        The reason why is because public transport are 1st class with light rail and Australia negotiated exemptions from TPP for there generics just to name one positive trade deal so that drugs are cheap, you can pick up 100 Panamax/panadol for one dollar.

        So you can live cheap on the outskirts of town and still be half an hour train ride to the CBD.

        You are a wack good boy

      • Andrea says:

        “despite having the opportunity”

        How do you know that person has been offered full-time employment that would pay at least, preferably more, than the pittance provided by the dole suppliers? Have you been personally told by this unnumbered set of ‘people who are on a benefit’ (type unspecified) that, ‘Hey, they offered me full time at a bit more than adult min but I really like existing on a fraction of that so I can live precariously.’ Really?

        Lazy people don’t get themselves down to the supermarket at weird hours of the day/night to clean and stack shelves or slog in the butchery or bakery and scurry. They simply don’t because – those are muscle- and skill intensive jobs. Hard yakker.(Yup. Even stacking shelves and cleaning.)

        Look: I have to ask this – do you actually READ what you write? “workshy people who getting their full dole and also working.” “workshy people” who are actually ”working”? C’mon already! Exercise that lone brain cell of yours. Please.

      • DennyPaoa Takere says:

        Fuck off! The data doesn’t state that bullshit.

      • Mike the Lefty says:

        Where’s your evidence?
        If you don’t post it here within a few days then it shows you have dreamed it up.

  4. Priss says:

    What I find really concerning is that MacPherson claims that Statistics NZ’s new criteria are based on “international standards”.

    If that is correct, then as you say, Frank, worldwide unemployment is much higher than official stats suggest.

    I find that disturbing.

  5. bert says:

    Given that local government were given an edict by a government minister not to release negative information on the amount of farm effluent going into waterways and the subsequent in inquiry confirming what the minister had done, the amount of, rigging the stats to support this government just shows how corrupt they truly are.

  6. gastarbeiter says:

    And to be added soon to list of job losses, librarians at Auckland City
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11733620

  7. Mike in Auckland says:

    Frank, facts no longer matter, we are back with Goebbels and Co, see US elections, it does not matter what is fact and the truth, hence Key gets away with so much, it does not matter, you need to rethink your strategy.

    • Mike… point taken.

      Perhaps I could throw in a few misogynistic references and demonise a couple of ethnic groups… (Just kidding.)

      But yes, I’ll have to reconsider how to present this kind of information in a “post-truth” era…

      • On the contrary. Sanders has proven you can rouse those who is most victimised by economic/trade/neoliberal head winds.

        To me he didn’t resonate with the young black voter early enough. That felt like an add on. Obama resonated with the black vote naturally to outperform all predictions.

        Governor Grey and the framers of New Zealand wrote the treaty of Waitangi as a guide so any poor farmer has a shot at joining parliament and then go back to the farm when thier finished.

        It’s all there in the manual you can’t get it wrong even though establishment politics try to rush through breaches of the treaty of Waitangi when no one is looking. Honour the treaty has to be the easiest guide book ever.

  8. miriamr says:

    Frank, have you checked to see which figures the Government is using when they say that unemployment has reduced to the lowest since 2008?

    I ask this because the changes to the definition of unemployed has been changed backdated to March 2007, which means that the figures used for comparisons ought to be the changed ones as well.

    If they are using revised figures for 2016, and non-revised figures for 2008, then it is misrepresentation, at the least.

    Are you able to check this?

  9. Andrea says:

    Frank:
    What types of jobs are being lost? What types of jobs are being ‘created’?

    Where is ‘creation’ occurring?

    Can the workers who have been let go quickly find employment in the new job pool? Or not?

    Which age and skill groups are losing? Who are gaining?

    What genuine upskilling is being offered? What is being provided to overcome prejudices around age too young/too old,), skill sets, background experience, weird requirements to instantly know about some obscure industry without any on the job training?

    The figures provided by Stats are so vague as to be useless except for the purposes of spin. We need a much better and more up to date number picture of positions being offered in the SMEs as well as the over-padded businesses. We need to be able to track the changes to the ’employment landscape’ – the old and shrinking businesses; the new and slowly expanding ventures; the shape and services being provided in the service industries.

    Stats simply aren’t doing a useful job in the present highly fluid employment and enterprising environment.

  10. XRAY says:

    Question then is what is the best assessment of our true unemployment figures?

  11. Who Gnu says:

    Orwellianism from Stats NZ, at it’s finest.


 
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