Skip to content

Fighting fake facts

The heat of the general election campaign is rising so I suppose it is the time that you’d expect more than usual numbers of fake facts to be tossed around. You’d also hope that there would be more than the usual journalistic checking of them. Here’s a check of a couple of fake facts to help both them and you.

“An economy producing 10,000 new jobs a month”

How many times have you heard Bill English say that?

It’s not true. You can get there if you grab onto the usual seasonal increase in employment in December – but then you have to explain relatively poor employment growth in other quarters. Adjusting for seasonal effects, on average 9,700 more people were employed per month over the March quarter. That’s the closest it gets. On average 7,300 more people were employed per month over the last year, and 5,700 over the last two years taking into account changes in the Household Labour Force Survey. Don’t forget also that the working age population grew by 8,200 a month over the last year and 7,800 per month over the last two years.

“A 30,000 reduction in migration right now will stall the economy”

That’s Bill English too.

This is nonsense.

Actually Treasury in effect modelled something like this last year. Its Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update (HYEFU) published in December had net immigration falling by 30,000 from 69,800 in September 2016 to 39,780 in September 2018 – not much more than a year away now. Did they think that the economy would stall? Nope, Treasury forecast 3.5 percent annual average GDP growth in the year to June 2018 and 2.9 percent the following year. There were other things going on too, so these numbers aren’t solely a result of changes in net immigration, and Treasury is hardly perfect in its forecasts but there was no “stall”. After all, we’ve had net immigration well below these levels for all of New Zealand’s history.

This doesn’t mean we can cut back immigration as if there is no tomorrow. There is a continuing need for the right skills in the right places if they truly cannot be provided by New Zealanders. On the other hand, it should not be used to give employers a free pass to avoid training people and to avoid the pay rises that tell trainees that the training was worth it. It should not be a free pass to avoid raising pay and conditions to attract locals to jobs

Download the full bulletin: Economic Bulletin 191 –  July 2017