The government is buoyant over the surprise revelation by Stats NZ that seasonally adjusted unemployment rate has fallen to 3.9 per cent in the September 2018 quarter – a record low in a decade.

This is down from 4.4 per cent last quarter and is the lowest unemployment rate since the June 2008 quarter, when it was 3.8 per cent.

Not many, including the government, would have expected such a rock star performance against the backdrop of falling business confidence.

However, Stats NZ media release on Wednesday, November 7, announced the fall in the unemployment rates.

“The fall in the unemployment rate in the latest quarter reflected a fall in the number of unemployed people (down 13,000) and a strong rise in employment (up 29,000),” the Stats NZ press release said.

“This quarter’s employment rate rose to 68.3 per cent, the highest rate since the series began more than 30 years ago.

“The fall in unemployment, in tandem with a fall in underemployment, was key to the underutilisation rate falling to 11.3 per cent,” it further added.

Welcoming the announcement as excellent news Finance Minister Grant Robertson said, “Today’s drop in the unemployment rate to its lowest level in over a decade is another real example of New Zealand’s strong economic fundamentals.”

“On entering Government, we said our economic plan would focus on ensuring all New Zealanders benefited from growth and set the target of a 4% unemployment rate within our first term.

 “Our economic plan backs businesses to invest and hire. We’re making record transport infrastructure investments throughout New Zealand to boost productivity and exports; we have a strong focus on regional development through the Provincial Growth Fund; and we are supporting businesses to close skills gaps through policies like Mana in Mahi/Strength in Work, micro-credentials and fees-free.

“On top of this, our $1 billion investment to support business research & development, the $100 million Green Investment Fund, and Trade for All agenda will see investment in new technologies, and open up new markets for our exporters.

 “We’re also changing the underlying regulatory settings to encourage investment into the productive economy. We’re heading away from growth driven by property speculation and population increase and transitioning the economy towards productive, sustainable and inclusive growth.

 “It is the nature of statistics such as the unemployment figures that there will be some fluctuation in coming quarters. But today’s data show the underlying fundamentals of the economy, the labour market and businesses are strong,” Mr Robertson said.