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More people employed – now wages need to rise

“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