The unemployment rate in New Zealand fell to a seasonally adjusted 4.4 percent in the first quarter of 2018, Statistics New Zealand said on Wednesday.
That was in line with expectations and down from 4.5 percent in the three months prior.
This is the fifth consecutive quarter the unemployment rate has fallen and is the lowest rate since the December 2008 quarter, when it was also 4.4 percent.
The participation rate eased to 70.8 percent, down from the downwardly revised 70.9 percent in Q1 (originally 71.0 percent).
“While most New Zealanders are familiar with the unemployment rate, the underutilization rate is equally as important,” labor market and household statistics senior manager Jason Attewell said. “It provides a broader picture of untapped capacity in the labor market.”
The seasonally adjusted underutilization rate fell to 11.9 percent, down from 12.2 percent in the December 2017 quarter. There were almost 340,000 people with the desire and potential to work more, though this was 5,000 fewer than in the December 2017 quarter.
“Underutilization includes people who have a job but want to work more hours, or are available to work but aren’t looking, or are looking for work but aren’t available to start within the next month,” Attewell said.
The fall in underutilization mainly reflects 9,000 fewer people being underemployed, which included 8,000 fewer women. People who are underemployed are those in part-time employment who want to, and are available to, work more hours. With fewer underemployed women, the underutilization rate for women fell to 14.6 percent (from 15.2 percent) in the March 2018 quarter.
In the March 2018 quarter, the unemployment rate for men fell to 3.9 percent, while that for women fell to 4.9 percent. This compares with 4.0 percent and 5.0 percent in the December 2017 quarter, respectively.
The employment rate was unchanged (67.7 percent), as it kept pace with growth in the working-age population.
Women were at their highest-ever rate of employment (62.6 percent).
In the March 2018 quarter, employment rose 0.6 percent, the majority of which came from more women (up 0.8 percent) than men (up 0.4 percent) gaining employment.
Annually, employment increased 3.1 percent, which was also driven by women (up 3.7 percent) when compared with men (up 2.6 percent).