New Zealand's unemployment rate has fallen dramatically from 7.1 per cent to 6 per cent during the March 2010 quarter, Statistics New Zealand said today.
This is the first fall in the unemployment rate since the December 2007 quarter in the Household Labour Force Survey, which is based on a representative sample of 15,000 New Zealand households.
The number of people unemployed dropped by 25,000 during the quarter, while the number of people employed grew by 22,000.
That's fantatstic news; not just for the government but for the country and the economy as a whole. And it seems to have taken commentators completely by surprise:
ASB Bank economist Chris Tennent-Brown was one of many surprised at the strength shown in today's job figures.
"To summarise in one word WOW!" he said.
"The New Zealand labour market has turned. In the first quarter the number of people employed increased by 22,000," he said. The "unequivocally strong labour market data" had now opened the way for the Reserve Bank to begin removing stimulus and lift the Official Cash Rate (OCR)
"We expected that the labour market would turn during Q1, but not but not as impressively as the survey showed," said Tennent-Brown.
"The 1.1 per cent drop in Q1 is the largest fall in the unemployment rate recorded since the survey began in March 1986, and the 1 per cent lift in the number of people employed is the strongest lift since June 2008's 1.2 per cent gain," he said.
"Wow" indeed! It's hard to take anything from these figures other than good news. The fact that unemployment has fallen by such a degree, and that the number of people moving into employment has also mushroomed adds weight to the government's plans to get people off welfare and into the workforce. That's good news for all concerned.
Long may the upwards trend continue!