More People Employed – Now Wages Need To Rise – CTU


“The news that the number of people who are unemployed has decreased to pre-covid level of 4% is welcomed by the Council of Trade Unions”, said CTU Economist and Director of Policy Craig Renney.

“The labour market now looks as if it has recovered in large part from the shock of the global pandemic. Employment rates for both men and women have improved significantly. The government can righty be proud of its efforts in keeping people in work, and in managing the virus in Aotearoa.”

“We now need to see pay for working people match the good news on employment. 73% of Kiwis received a pay increase of less than inflation last year according to the Labour Cost Index. Annual hourly earnings growth is the same as it was in 2019 pre-COVID, and is less than it was in December 2021 according to the Quarterly Economic Survey. Increases in wages seems to be coming from New Zealanders working longer hours, with overtime hours up 22.8%.”

“More work is needed on improving our ‘underemployment’ rates, these are still above pre-covid rates, and for women is more than twice the rate than it is for men. These are people who want more work but can’t get it. The unemployment rate fell for Maori and Pacific Peoples to 7.8%, but it is still more than double the rate of Europeans (3.1%). Unemployment for 20-24 years at 6.8% is more than double the rate of those aged 30 and over. We have some distance to go before we have truly delivered maximum sustainable employment.”

“Overall Aotearoa is doing well with unemployment falling to rates that place us 8th overall in the OECD – below rates found in the US, UK, Australia, and Canada. The challenge ahead of us is to make sure that we are really embedding the success story of our COVID response so that it is delivering for working New Zealanders. The data today suggests that we are on the right path, and Fair Pay Agreements will help in this regard in the future. But there is much to go before we can fully claim success”, Renney said


  1. I am always unsure about NZ employment figures, what criteria has been used to establish the stated figure?
    In the Wikipedia item on NZ Economy there are queries for verification on some of the Employment information and figures there; statements made without reference to source and criteria.

    This from Wikipedia on Labour Rights in NZ on un/employment – some consider people employed even if only marginally associated with employment market (for example, working only one hour per week).[1]

    eg In the US – Widely reported unemployment metrics in the U.S. do not accurately represent the reality of joblessness in America.
    For example, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not count a person who desires work as unemployed if he or she is not working and has stopped looking for work over the past four weeks. Similarly, the BLS does not count someone as unemployed if he or she is, for instance, an out-of-work engineer, construction worker or retail manager who performs a minimum of one hour of work a week and receives at least $20 in compensation.

    So in NZ we apparently follow the US method, as seems often to be the case. See #3 from the link below about methods and criteria for NZ employment statistics. This applies to the Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS) method which covers a ‘snapshot’ of one week; (the LEEDS method (Linked-Employer Employee Data) is different and looks at a whole year).
    3. In the HLFS, a person is employed if they worked for one hour or more for pay or profit, or worked without pay for one hour or more in work that contributed directly to the operation of a business, or has a job but is not at work due to illness or is on leave. The published measure is an average calculated from totals in each week of the quarter.

    This method in NZ shows that the figures given as statistics for information, do not supply the whole picture of un/employment as the public would wish to know. It gives merely a figure that is comparable to historical data on a basis that the Statistics Department has decided on and maintains as a reference measure for itself and interested ‘players’; the HLFS figures start from 1986 as below.
    6. The HLFS time series starts in March 1986 for total employed persons. The time series for employed persons by industry starts in September 2003.

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