Unemployment rate rises to 5.3 per cent – 151,000 out of work

Unemployment rose to 5.3 per cent in the September quarter.

In the September 2020 quarter, the seasonally adjusted number of unemployed people rose by 37,000 to reach 151,000, as the impact of Covid-19 hit the labour market, Stats NZ said today.

This 37,000 rise is the largest quarterly rise in unemployment since the series began in 1986.

However, economists had been expecting a figure between 5 and 6 per cent but noted a wide range of variability based on complications arising from the pandemic.

This figure is at the low end of expectations.

By comparison, Australia’s unemployment rate currently sits at 6.9 per cent.

While today’s data provides a cleaner read than the second quarter – which included the first lockdown – it may still have been affected by pandemic anomalies.

Unemployment actually fell to four per cent in the second (June) quarter.

“Only those who are actively looking for work are classified as unemployed, but lockdown conditions made this impractical,” said Westpac senior economist Michael Gordon.

But after Stats NZ included some additional questioning in June about whether people were not looking for work for Covid-related reasons, the “true” unemployment rate appears to have been more like 4.6 per cent in the second quarter, he said.

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