Figures from Statistics New Zealand show unemployment in the fourth quarter of last year was 4.5%, down 0.1% on the quarter before and down 0.8% when compared with the year prior. Public sector wage inflation was up 0.5 percent in the quarter for a 1.5 percent annual gain, and across both sectors, wage inflation rose a quarterly 0.4 percent and an annual 1.8 percent. "Labour is more ambitious for those families and will not rest until a fair day's work earns a fair day's pay".
The unemployment rate for Maori is the lowest it has been in nearly a decade, but it's still double the national rate.
In the December 2017 year, the number of Maori unemployed fell 8,600, down 21.4 percent, with the decrease mainly from those aged 20 to 29 years, which contributed two-thirds of the decrease.
Capital Economics chief New Zealand economist Paul Dales suggests New Zealand's record high underutilisation rate could be one of the factors behind this. "Together, unemployment and underutilisation provide a broader picture of people wanting more work", labour market and household statistics senior manager Jason Attewell said.
The National Party leader says it's not an economic measure and 90 day trials should remain for big businesses.
Unemployment remains well off its low of 3.3 per cent in 2007 under the Clark government and the underutilisation rate - people working but less than they would like - is still at 12 per cent, or 340,000 people.
The current Labour government has said attracting skilled migrants is a priority and in December announced seven building-related occupations were being added to the Immediate Skill Shortage List in a bid to address tight capacity in the construction labour market.
"Our flexible labour market encourages businesses of all sizes to grow their workforces and with unemployment at a nine-year low, it's hard to see why Labour's reforms are needed at all".
"At the margins", he says, "this may be contributing to the still subdued rates of wage growth".
More than half of the increase in employment came from Māori aged 15-24 years.
In a release, he makes no mention of the wage inflation figures cited by economists.
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