The unemployment rate fell to 5.1 per cent in the June 2016 quarter (from a revised 5.2 per cent in the March quarter), Statistics New Zealand said today.

Compared with the March 2016 quarter, 1,000 fewer people were unemployed in New Zealand.

The official estimate of unemployment is based on people who are both actively seeking work and available to work, as measured in the Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS).

Unemployment was also down from where it was a year ago (5.5 percent in the June 2015 quarter), particularly for women, Stats NZ said.

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"Compared with June 2015, there were 8,000 fewer unemployed women, and their unemployment rate fell from 6.2 per cent to 5.4 per cent," labour and income statistics manager Mark Gordon said.

A new method of measuring unemployment attracted some political controversy yesterday after Labour Finance spokesman Grant Robertson argued that revisions may favour the Government.

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.

Government statistician Liz MacPherson defended the changes which have been back-dated so the new data can be compared accurately with figures back to 2007.

"Stats NZ was unable to quantify the impact of the change in the questionnaire on the number of people employed in the quarter," Westpac economist Anne Bonniface noted.

However, the latest data appeared "roughly consistent with a wider range of labour market indicators we saw over the June quarter," she wrote.

"Our underlying view is that we're continuing to see a continued gradual improvement in the labour market, supported by a backdrop of solid economic growth. However, strong growth in the working age population, along with a subdued inflation backdrop is keeping a lid on wage pressure."

Because of survey changes, comparisons with preceding periods cannot be made, ASB chief economist Nick Tuffley said.

"It may take another 3 quarters for the data to settle down," he said. "In the meantime, the monetary policy significance of the survey will be low."

In unadjusted terms, unemployment was down from a year ago across many North Island regions, including Auckland, which had an unemployment rate of 4.7 per cent in the June 2016 quarter. This is the lowest rate for the Auckland region since the September 2008 quarter (when it was 4.1 per cent).

By region it remains the highest in Northland at 10.6 per cent - where it rose 3.1 per cent.

Canterbury retained the lowest rate at 3.2 per cent - despite a slight rise of 0.2 per cent.

See the full labour market statistics here: