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Is NZ facing a jobs crisis?

Saturday 23 Feb 2013 5:41 p.m.

Transpacific waste management is the latest company to announce job cuts. It comes at the end of a week when at least 1000 more workers could be facing unemployment with Telecom restructuring and Solid Energy in financial trouble.

But are we facing a jobs crisis?

Transpacific has announced 200 jobs across Australia and New Zealand will go. It has the dubious honour of joining a downsizing club that in the last four weeks looks like this:

  • Telecom's restructure will see hundreds of jobs go.
  • Solid Energy's debts mount to $400 million. The axe now hangs over 1200 jobs.
  • Contact Energy cuts 10 percent of its workforce – 100 jobs gone.
  • Geon Print is in receivership. Potentially 300 are jobs affected.
  • A hundred jobs are to go as New Zealand Post business datamail replaces people with machines.
  • Construction company Mainzeal collapses. Hundreds of contractors are locked out.
  • Summit Wool Spinners sells its plant – 200 workers are made redundant.

The Council of Trade Union president Helen Kelly sees a disturbing trend.

“Job losses are definitely escalating,” she says.

“I don't think they're accelerating, but we are seeing it across a range of industries,” says Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce. “What we're seeing are tough economic times.”

The Government denies there's a crisis, and says new jobs are being created in infrastructure, food processing, oil and gas.

“According to the quarterly employment survey, about 56,000 over the last two years,” says Mr Joyce.

But Ms Kelly says the Government's playing down a serious crisis.

“The number of people in employment has decreased by 22,000 since 2008 and 81,000 new people have entered the labour market. So the gap between jobs available and people working is growing.”

Economist Ganesh Nana says put job market numbers with what we know about business profitability and confidence, and the outlook is bleak.

“You can pick out whatever numbers you like, but the reality is it doesn't feel good for New Zealanders. That's a good signal it isn't good out there.”

But while the Government maintains the country is seeing progress, it admits jobs aren't appearing as fast as it would like.

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