Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

New look job stats spark political row

Labour's finance spokesman Grant Robertson has accused the Government of manipulating unemployment statistics. NZ Herald Photo by Marty Melville.
Labour's finance spokesman Grant Robertson has accused the Government of manipulating unemployment statistics. NZ Herald Photo by Marty Melville.

The official government statistician has hit back at Labour over accusations of political interference in unemployment statistics.

The controversy surrounding the household labour force survey - due to be released tomorrow - was sparked by Labour's finance spokesman Grant Robertson.

He objected to a change in the measure of joblessness that meant people browsing jobs on websites like Seek were no longer counted as actively looking for work.

"That means they no longer fit into the unemployed category, meaning tomorrow's delayed figures will almost certainly show a decrease in unemployment.

"These changes are typical of a Government that actively manipulates official data to suit its own ends. I have no doubt National ministers will embrace the massaged figures and continue not to worry about the real people who are out of work."

Government statistician Liz MacPherson responded in a media release, saying she was fiercely protective of the statutory independence of her role.

"Statistics NZ has a legislative obligation to release objective official statistics. We will continue to do this at all times."

It was not uncommon for revisions to be made to official statistics, MacPherson said.

"Within the survey questions, to be regarded as actively looking for a job you must do more than simply look at job advertisements, whether it is online or in a newspaper."

- NZ Herald

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