Unemployment up to 5pc - less than feared [Stats NZ Unemployment release]
Page 1 of 2..... Updated 3:30PM Thursday May 07, 2009

The unemployment rate rose to a six-year high 5 per cent in the March quarter, but that was a smaller rise than economists forecast as more people than expected dropped out of the workforce.

The rate, which increased from a revised 4.7 per cent in the previous three months, has risen for five consecutive quarters from a low of 3.5 per cent in the December 2007 quarter.

The latest quarter was the first time since March 2003 that the rate has reached 5 per cent.

The Household Labour Force Survey, published today by Statistics New Zealand (SNZ), showed the seasonally adjusted labour force participation rate, which measures the percentage of the working age population in the labour force fell further than expected.

The participation rate dropped 0.7 percentage points in the quarter to 68.4 per cent, but was still 0.7 percentage points above the figure a year ago.

Seasonally adjusted employment fell by 24,000, or 1.1 per cent, in the March quarter to 2.18 million, although the total was 0.8 per cent ahead of the figure a year ago.

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