Saturday, May 07, 2016

Unemployment rate - how NZ stacks up

The unemployment rate rose slightly from 5.4 to 5.7 in the march quarter. I have only just had chance to look at the tables. What interested me most was the global situation.

That wonderful semi-socialist paradise of Scandinavia  has only one country with a better unemployment rate than NZ - Norway. Denmark is just behind on 5.8; Sweden trails with 7.1 and Finland tails with 9.2 percent.

If you've listened to any of the US presidential campaign speeches - especially Bernie Sanders - you would think the country was utterly stagnant and that unemployment was raging. In reality, at 4.9% their rate is enviable by most other country's standards.

Of course, unemployment rates never tell a complete story.

It's a surprise to see Japan so high (ie lowest unemployment) on the table given their economic troubles. Much of the work is insecure and low paid:

"... the labor participation rate has risen during his three years in office, pushing the unemployment rate to a two-decade low. But the headline figures mask underlying weakness. During Mr. Abe’s tenure, the number of regular workers has fallen, while the percentage of nonregular workers has hit a record. The jump in labor participation has been fueled mostly by an increase in the number of married women and people aged over 60 taking part-time jobs as incomes of heads of households fall and the pension age rises, Goldman Sachs said in a January report."
And Iceland at number one? Not long ago it was bankrupt. Interesting summary of how that played out here:

Further, while Iceland’s recovery has far outpaced those of its peers, it hasn't been wholly without hardship. Employment is up, but credit remains hard to come by, and Icelandic pensions have taken a hit. Worse, the country is struggling to find new ways to diversify its economy; it’s currently promoting tourism and tech startups, but hasn’t exactly found a sector to replace the banks.
That sounds familiar.

At the other end of the spectrum comes the newly  unemployed  Greece, with 1 in 4 with no work, and the traditionally unemployed Spain, with 1 in 5 unemployed. Spain has spent almost 75% of the last 32 years with an unemployment rate in excess of 15 percent.

Out of 34 countries NZ is ranked 12th, just ahead of Australia and behind the US and the UK.

Locally, the key thing to understand is that,

New Zealand's labour force grows 1.5 percent
The labour force increased 1.5 percent in the March 2016 quarter, with 38,000 more people in the labour force. This was the largest quarterly growth since December 2004.
The labour force is those people seeking work. It is a subset of the working age population (currently standing at 69% and known as labour force participation rate).  Of those 38,000 newbies (who could young people entering the working age population, immigrants/ refugees or ex-pats returning, or someone returning to work after raising a family) 10,000 are unemployed.

So even though there were actually more people employed (up 0.2%) over the quarter, the unemployment rate still rose by 0.3%.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Party donations per MP in 2015

Labour - $8,750
ACT - $162,000
National - $23,728
Greens - $28,571
Maori Party - $14,000
NZ First - $6,666
United Future - $0

Data sources here and here

Sorry about the slip in spelling.

Quote of the Day

"The only freedom which counts is the freedom to do what some other people think to be wrong. There is no point in demanding freedom to do that which all will applaud. All the so-called liberties or rights are things which have to be asserted against others who claim that if such things are to be allowed their own rights are infringed or their own liberties threatened. This is always true, even when we speak of the freedom to worship, of the right of free speech or association, or of public assembly. If we are to allow freedoms at all there will constantly be complaints that either the liberty itself or the way in which it is exercised is being abused, and, if it is a genuine freedom, these complaints will often be justified. There is no way of having a free society in which there is not abuse. Abuse is the very hallmark of liberty."    - Lord Chief Justice Halisham

End of Life Choice Bill still in ballot

A snippet in this morning's DomPost about David Seymour's disappointment that National vetoed a debate on his End of Life Choice Bill confused. Surely it can't be over as quickly and  simply as that?

However the bill is still in the ballot and if it is drawn will have to be debated. Or at least officially rejected by a majority of MPs.

I sincerely hope that it is drawn. Today.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Morgan Foundation attacks personal freedom ... again

The Morgan Foundation were at it again last week. Attacking personal freedoms to achieve the society they want. Whether its cats, climate or corpulence, regard for personal choice is utterly disregarded.

If you think I exaggerate read the latest here.

Instead of a facile debate over whether a sugar tax would work or not, we should be discussing which we value more – living in a free society where you can eat what you like and burden the state, or whether we value having a healthy, productive society. 

My response which was published yesterday (with editing):

 Geoff Simmons (Ideology behind the argument against sugar tax, DomPost, April 29) argues against the "freedom of choice" to eat what we like and wants taxes to curb consumption. These taxes will however apply to all consumers, most of whom do not have an over-eating problem. To control the behaviour of a minority, Simmons is completely comfortable with removing the majority's freedom of choice. In fact, he really dislikes freedom of choice, saying it will "clog our hospitals". That's just silly. Poor choice is what leads to obesity and ill-health. A seeming inability to deal with that issue should not lead to further punishment of the majority. Those who would so easily relinquish personal autonomy in favour of state dictates about what and how much should be eaten are frankly, scary.
And for good measure here is another from somebody called Amanda Purdy, published today:

Monday, May 02, 2016

A housing rental crisis?

The NZ Herald has a report  about the Salvation Army handing out increased numbers of food parcels  due to rising housing costs. In Auckland anyway.

Average rents for three-bedroom Otara houses rose from $382 a week in March 2014 to $466 this March
The article doesn't record the source so I am assuming it's from Barfoot and Thompson. Here's their March 2015 chart followed by March 2016.

The rise in the total South Auckland area, for 3 three-bedroom house, is a lot less than in Otara - 7  versus 22 percent.

But even then, Barfoot and Thompson say:
Over the last 12 months, Auckland saw an increase of $28 or 5.8% (for all property types). 
Whereas Stats NZ say, over the same period:

Rentals for housing increased 2.3 percent, with Auckland up 3.2 percent and Canterbury up 1.2 percent. 
3.2% is a much smaller increase than 5.8%

Auckland has always been one of the least affordable rental markets. But because it gets reported so much, people assume the same applies throughout NZ. It doesn't (though it suits the Sallies to fuel that perception when appearing on telly to promote their annual Red Shield Appeal.)

The following is from Statistics NZ  and shows rents as a percentage of equivalised household incomes for each NZ region:

(Left click for full table)

Those stats go to 2012. The average total rent payments in each of the following years has been:

2013  $273.50
2014  $288.90
2015  $301.00

But household incomes are also rising, even for beneficiaries (CPI adjustments yearly and recent $25 raise).

Just going back to Auckland, another aspect of the reported non-affordability is missed, at least when using official stats. Household incomes are equivalised according to number of members. So larger families will have their incomes reduced by the process. This means that the percentage that rent swallows is higher. That would certainly apply in South Auckland.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Benefit babies at greatest risk

Following up from my previous post, "Intrigued" left a link at Whale Oil saying that the benefit baby statistics correlate strongly with geographic areas for the greatest child risk. He referred to Treasury work. (Follow the link for a further breakdown of the Auckland region.)

Compare my graph to the Treasury's below:

Here is the comment left at Whale Oil in full. Interesting:

"For anyone who has an interest in this area there is now access to useful data via the Integrated Data Infrastructure - a joint project between various departments - Corrections, Health, CYF, W&I and Stats NZ to map where the children at most risk are in NZ. It is no surprise that the areas with the highest welfare dependency (as per Lindsay Mitchell's analysis above) also show areas with the most at risk children. If anyone is interested in seeing the information that is now available and an interactive map of NZ, go to https://shinyapps.stats.govt.n...
And A lot of the work being done by MSD on the overhaul of CYF integrates this information and it is a credit to this Government (in my opinion) that they are looking at the real cost to the State over the lifetime of a child born into a family with the identified risk factors (there are 4 key risk indicators) with the aim of investing in social welfare programmes that will (hopefully) mitigate against the perpetual cycle of welfare dependency, child abuse, crime etc and all the worst outcomes for children. It will be interesting to see how it all manifests in the next iteration of CYF but I sincerely hope it works as there are significant problems for tens of thousands of children in NZ. I think it's our best hope yet from what I have seen. After working in this field for nearly 2 decades I can assure you I've seen nothing from the left of the political spectrum or the CPAGs of this world to really come up with a solution for the real "child poverty" in NZ in all its ugly forms - other than use the term as a political club to try and score political points. I've been to the CPAG annual Budget Breakfast analyses in past years and yearned for a shred of common sense or practical and workable solutions from them and come away disillusioned and angry at their ideological grandstanding."