New Zealand's unemployment rate unexpectedly rose to a 13-year high as the pool of jobs shrank for a second straight quarter with a flat labour market in Auckland and fewer full-time workers. The kiwi dollar tumbled about half a US cent.
The unemployment rate rose half a percentage point to 7.3 per cent in the September quarter, the highest level since June 1999, according to Statistics New Zealand's household labour force survey.
Economists surveyed by Reuters were picking a 0.1 percentage point fall to 6.7 per cent.
The number of people employed fell 0.4 per cent to 2.22 million in its second quarterly decline, while the participation rate was unchanged at 68.4 per cent.
"The unemployment rate has stayed between 6.4 per cent and 6.8 per cent over the past two years, and has now risen for the third quarter in a row," industry and labour statistics manager Diane Ramsay said in a statement.
The New Zealand dollar dropped to 81.93 US cents after the figures were released, from 82.56 cents immediately before.
New Zealand's labour market has been struggling to recover from the nation's deepest recession in two decades, with employers more keen on taking on part-timers and casual staff than hiring permanent full-time workers.
Just today, Dynamic Solutions of Christchurch said it will shed 40-60 jobs as it winds down its contract manufacturing business.
Auckland's unemployment rate rose 1.3 percentage points to 8.6 per cent, with the number of people employed in New Zealand's biggest city at 691,200, the fewest since June last year.
Full-time employment shrank 0.8 per cent to 1.7 million while part-timers rose 1.4 per cent to 519,000.
The number of jobless people, which includes people who might not be actively seeking work, rose to 294,900 from 271,200, while underemployment, which counts people who are part-time but want to work more hours, rose to 113,300 from 109,500.
Workers in professional, scientific, technical, administrative and support services recorded the biggest decline in jobs, falling to 249,400 from 259,300 in the June quarter, while manufacturing shed 6,100 jobs to 240,400. The number of people working in construction fell to 166,600 from 171,300.
Total hours worked shrank 0.8 per cent to a seasonally adjusted 73.18 million and were down 2 per cent from a year earlier.
Youths aged 15 to 24 not in employment, education or training (NEET), a target demographic for the government, rose to 13.4 per cent from 13.1 per cent in the June quarter.
Canterbury's labour market continued to improve, with the unemployment rate down 5.2 per cent, from 6.5 per cent in the June quarter. Waikato and the Tasman, Nelson, Marlborough, West Coast regions were the only other areas to show a lower jobless rate.
Northland recorded the highest unemployment rate at 10 per cent.
Today's figures come after the quarterly employment survey showed total filled jobs rose 0.3 per cent to a seasonally adjusted 1.715 million, bolstered by a pick-up in part-time workers and a decline in full-time equivalents to 1.35 million.