Where has employment suffered most?

The government’s wage subsidy scheme undoubtedly kept many New Zealanders in work during the Level 3 and 4 lockdown period and beyond. To date more than $10.9bn has been paid out.

But the wage subsidy has not been able to save all jobs.

Many people have been made redundant already, and many more job losses will follow in the months ahead as business structures unravel under a new market demand paradigm.

Data from MSD on work ready recipients of Jobseeker Support benefits can help highlight where in New Zealand there have been the steepest job losses to date. The data is more up-to-date than many other traditional employment statistics as the recent removal of benefit stand-down periods effectively means you can lose your job one day and be on a benefit the next.

The data from MSD shows that the number of people receiving Jobseeker Support across New Zealand that were deemed to be work ready rose 35% between March and April from 88,832 to 119,734. These work ready people are those that are willing and able to work again tomorrow.

Analysis of where these people are in New Zealand gives unsurprising results.

The territorial authorities with the swiftest proportional increase in the number of people claiming Jobseeker Support are those with large tourism sectors and places that had next to no unemployment to begin with. For example, Queenstown had 73 work ready recipients of Jobseeker Support in March, but 472 by April.

At the other end of the spectrum, the places with the smallest proportional increases, were already those that were relatively deprived to begin with, such as Buller and Kawerau.

The following table highlights the results for all territorial authorities.

By mid-June, MSD is expected to release an updated picture of increases to beneficiary numbers during May to a territorial authority level of detail. The numbers will undoubtedly rise over the weeks ahead as we move beyond the initial wage subsidy period. But it may not be until June and beyond as we wean off wage subsidies that the true picture of unemployment begins to emerge.