Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Northland jobs: fact or fiction?

There was, apparently, a bit of a stoush at last night's meeting of the Northland by-election candidates in Kaikohe. The National candidate Mark Osborne claimed that "seven and a half thousand" new jobs had been created over the past year in Northland, while Winston Peters asked whether anyone had actually seen one of them, and said the claim was "pulling a stunt" (you can listen to Radio NZ's piece on the meeting here, where you can hear what both candidates said).

So, who's right? It should be a simple matter to find out, and it is.

According to the Household Labour Force Survey for December 2014, the latest available data (available as an Excel spreadsheet here), the total number of people employed in Northland in December 2013 was 66,700, and in December 2014 it was 74,100, an increase of 7,400. So Mr Osborne's claim is correct. Just for the record, the other HLFS statistics on Northland also show good employment outcomes, with the unemployment rate down from 9% to 8%, and the participation rate up from 60.9% to 63.8%.

Not that Mr Osborne's version did him any good, when he went on to overegg the pudding by saying "What I will do...is to continue growing jobs". It's not clear whether the ensuing mockery was to do with him looking as if he was claiming unjustified personal credit, or because voters these days know that governments don't create jobs (or not the bulk of them, at any rate). Governments can often, and fairly, take credit for allowing or facilitating or improving the environment for job creation, and that's no small thing: just look at all the counter-examples, from France to Venezuela, where governments have been incompetent managers of the macroeconomic environment. But job creation itself? Nah.

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