Stable unemployment rate, rising wages

New Zealand’s record unemployment rate remains stable, but thousands more workers have taken sick leave in recent months due to the Omicron outbreak.

Statistics NZ says that in the March quarter of 2022 the unemployment rate was 3.2%.

This means that 94,000 people are unemployed, a decrease of 29% compared to the same period last year.

As employers struggle to find and retain workers, wages have risen 3%.

Wage inflation is the highest in over a decade. The average hourly rate is now $36.18.

Business award delivery manager Bryan Downes said: “Wage increases have been seen for significantly more jobs in the past year than the year before.”

People working in manufacturing, health and social assistance, professional, scientific, technical and support services may have noticed the biggest wage increases.

It still does not correspond to inflation, which is at 6.9%.

And Covid is having another impact – on sick leave.

The number of people who were absent for a full week or more during the March quarter increased by 67% compared to the same period last year.

This has seen a two-thirds increase in the past few months alone as Omicron cases soar.

“Sickness, illness or injury being the main reason for being absent from work for a full week has tended to remain fairly constant, and in the March 2022 quarter we have seen it increase by around the two-thirds a year as Omicron cases began to rise in the community,” said Becky Collett, Work and Wellbeing Statistics Manager.

The Maori unemployment rate remains stubbornly higher than that of the general population – 6.3%. The rate for Pacific peoples, while also decreasing, stands at 6.7%.

The number of young people not in education, employment or training is also well above the average rate, at 11.5%, compared to 10.9% in the last quarter.

And the underutilization figure – the rate that measures people who would like to work more hours – also rose slightly, to 9.3%.