JOBS FIGURES LEAVE ROBERTSON FLAT FOOTED
By Richard Harman (author)
The Government understandably was able yesterday to bask in the reflected glory of unemployment figures which showed no movement at all.
To highlight that National organised a “Dorothy Dixer” question for new List MP Chris Bishop to enable Finance Minister Bill English to recite a stream, of good news economic statistics.
It was the unemployment figures which dominated the exchanges.
Outside Parliament ASB Economist Chris Tennent-Brown said the statistics showed that more people were employed in New Zealand than ever before.
However there were enough new workers coming on stream to keep a degree of slack in the labour market.
“That slack is helping keep wage pressures very subdued,” he said.
“In fact, we see future wage pressures being subdued enough to enable the RBNZ to cut the OCR later this year.
“We expect two OCR cuts in the second half of the year, most likely starting in September.”
Nevertheless ANZ Bank CEO David Hisco said earlier this week that there were some warning clouds on the horizon.
Hisco also said that while New Zealand's economy continued to perform strongly, headwinds such as the strong dollar and slowing growth in Australia and China were emerging.
And there were more of those warning signs last night.
Fonterra last week cut its forecast farm gate milk price for the current season to $4.50 a kg of milk solids from $4.70, having shifted it to that level in December from $5.30.
The 20c downward revision alone was estimated to lower farm incomes by about $370 million.
Massey University banking expert David Tripe said bank results might not begin showing signs of financial stress among farmers until next year.
In the Global Dairy Trade auction overnight prices fell on average by 3.5% but skim milk powder went down 7.5%.
This brings the price of SMP price back to where it was at the end of 2008.
Yet though plainly the global trade prices point to an upcoming slowdown, Labour’s finance spokesman, Grant Robertson got himself tangled up asking a question about three regions --- Northland, the Bay of Plenty and Manawatu --- which had recorded above average unemployment.
Mr English batted that away by pointing out that unemployment throughout the South Island was lower than the average.
Based on today’s performance Mr Robertson will need to up his fact over the next 14 days for the Budget Debate on May 21.