Weekly Wrap: Minimum wage to rise and unemployment falls

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Key confirms minimum wage to rise
Prime Minister John Key has confirmed the minimum wage will once again rise this year. The PM wouldn’t say how much it would increase from its current rate of $13.75 an hour, but told TV3’s Firstline that New Zealand has one of the more generous minimum wages in the world.
“The latest New Zealand Income Survey has median hourly earnings at $21.58, so a $13.75 minimum wage is about 64% of the median wage,” he said.

Canterbury overtakes Auckland median income
Personal income statistics from the 2013 national census show the annual median income in Canterbury was the second highest in the country, overtaking Auckland since the last census in 2006. The annual median income in Canterbury rose 21.9% to $30,100, $500 above Auckland’s.

The census shows that Wellingtonians’ median income remains the highest in the country, at $32,700, although the 13.1% rise in the Wellington median is lower than the national average of 14.3% between the 2006 and 2013 censuses.

The lowest median income in the latest census was recorded in Northland, at $23,400 a year, up 10.7%. The only region to see the median income rise less than that was Auckland, with a 9.5%, however the median Auckland income at $29,600 is third highest in the country.

In 2006, the Waikato’s median income rose to $27,900 in 2013, but was sixth equal with Marlborough.

The largest percentage increases in median incomes over the seven years were recorded on the West Coast, where the median rose 24.2% to $26,900; Canterbury, up 21.9% to $30,100; Southland, up 21.3% to $29,500; and Taranaki, up 20.2% to $29,100.

NZ unemployment falls in fourth quarter
New Zealand’s unemployment rate fell to a three-year low in the fourth quarter of 2013 as jobs growth beat expectations, led by gains in the retail, accommodation and hospitality sectors.

The unemployment rate fell to six per cent in the three months ended Dec. 31, and down from 6.2% in the September quarter, according to Statistics New Zealand’s household labour force survey. It’s the lowest jobless rate since June 2009.

Employment rose 1.1 per cent in the quarter, led by gains in retail, accommodation and food services, construction, and professional scientific, technical, administration and support services. Employment grew three percent on an annual basis.

“We’re seeing strength across the labour market, particularly in industries that provide service,” industry and labour statistics manager Diane Ramsay stated. “The unemployment rate has been falling and employment rising for the last 18 months, with both now at levels last seen in early 2009.”

Unemployment in Auckland fell to 6.3 per cent in December from 6.7 per cent, while Canterbury’s jobless dropped to 3.4 per cent from 4.2 per cent.
However, underemployment increased, with 5.3 per cent of part-time workers wanting to take on more work, compared to 4.2 per cent in the September quarter.

Energy industry facing recruitment crisis
 A domestic skills shortage in New Zealand’s energy industry has employers recruiting from overseas or outside of the industry according to recruitment firm Hays.
According to Hays the shortage of energy professionals is evident across New Zealand, but is most acute in rural regions where there is less of a skills base and where overseas candidates are often unwilling to move.
“Employers are not increasing the overall size of their existing workforce, but the ongoing skills shortage means that they are constantly recruiting to replace staff who leave for work in other locations or who retire,” stated Jason Walker, Managing Director of Hays in New Zealand.
“A number of New Zealander's have returned home from Australia where energy jobs are not as prevalent, and this has helped to a point, but employers still face a skills shortage when they recruit.
“As a result, they are now considering hiring from overseas markets, such as the Philippines, and employing mechanical and electrical tradespeople from outside the energy industry who can be trained to become Line Mechanics and Power Technicians.”

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