Researching Stats NZ (Govt) I came across a news article by Stuff N Z dated 30th January 2022 ‘ Can we trust the official unemployment number?’ And how low estimates of unemployment can make Policy makers look so good, and so many people trust the stats produced by Stats NZ (Govt). I have heard people say, this is the most non transparent government ever. When it comes to Stats NZ I have to wonder if they have ever been transparent and honest, I think not. A stuff NZ article reported ‘unemployment stats are probably about double the number they headline or perhaps higher’

Stats NZ produces a variety of measures of spare capacity in the labour market. This is how Stats NZ count unemployment rate. They do not count beneficiaries or the number on Job Seeker Support. The official unemployment numbers are based on face-to-face and phone interviews with 15,000 households, each of which will have been selected to participate in Stats NZ’s Household Labour Force Survey for a period of two years. Households are selected to be a representative sample of households, and people have to take  part in the survey if selected. The employment rate is expressed as a percentage of the labour force, which is the sum of people employed and the officially unemployed. Its seasonally adjusted, taking into account unemployment tends to swing a bit between winter and summer. If you tell Stats NZ you are unemployed then you are counted as unemployed. Then the stats are seasonally adjusted to take into account unemployment that swings a bit  between winter and summer.

If you tell Stats NZ you are unemployed, are you counted in the  statistics as unemployed? Nope, its not quite like that. To be counted as unemployed in the survey, people must not have a part time job, even if its just an hour every week. For example if someone is on a Jobseeker allowance who had not been looking for work because they were taking part in some training then they probably wont be counted as unemployed

When Stats NZ updates the unemployment numbers they also measure what is called the ‘under utilisation rate’. Counts two groups of people as potential job seekers. Its not a matter of just counting the real  numbers unemployed.  But there is a case to argue that most people think about what Stats NZ consider as unemployed. When describing people with only an hour or so work per week not added to the unemployment numbers. Its all designed to make the govt look good. This is much like other key stats eg ‘inflation’ data. Is it all designed to make the government look good? Stats NZ compiles its labour market stats based on International rules, determined by the UN International Labour Organization. Thus labour market stats are comparable internationally all the way back to 1986. Zilch transparency.

Its not just as simple as one might think, there is certainly a lot of non transparency. Stats NZ (Govt) should one trust them ‘NOT ME’


Carol Sakey

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