The latest HLFS survey reveals a very high level of unemployment – higher than during the GFC in 2008. And it also reveals that the number of manufacturing jobs in the New Zealand economy declined again during the last quarter.
I find this slightly surprising. Sure, it seemed like manufacturing was in trouble: just about every week saw announcements of factory closures and job losses, and the opposition parties made a very big deal of this in the media and in the house.
But Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce’s reaction to this talk about a crisis in manufacturing was so dismissive, so withering, so contemptuous that I wondered if the opposition parties had over-reached. This was Joyce’s area, he has his vast new MoBIE Ministry to advise him of real-time conditions in the economy. He must know something the opposition parties didn’t.
Well, he didn’t. The manufacturing sector has lost a net 17,000 jobs this year. The opposition was right, and the Minister, for all his mocking, dripping scorn, was dead wrong.
It’s been a bad two days for the government and its claim to be a credible manager of the economy, which means it’s probably going to be a bad couple of weeks for beneficiaries, or whoever else they decide to get tough on as a smokescreen.