A direct correlation between the number of young New Zealanders leaving for Australia and the unemployment rate shows thousands are crossing the ditch because of a failing job market, Labour says.
Labour's finance spokesman David Parker today used Statistics New Zealand figures for the year to August 2012 to compare the number of unemployed 20- to 24-year-olds with the number of 20- to 24-year-olds migrating to Australia.
When unemployment rates peaked in the first quarter of 2012, so too did the number of young New Zealanders migrating to Australia, Labour's diagram showed.
"National claims that the record numbers of Kiwis heading to Australia isn't their fault, it's because our neighbours are doing so well. But a close look at the numbers shows that when unemployment gets worse more young Kiwis leave for Australia," Mr Parker said.
Mr Parker said more than 160,000 New Zealanders had left for Australia under National and 40 per cent of them were aged 18 to 30.
"National keeps making up excuses for the exodus. One day it's mining in Perth. The next it's the sun on the Gold Coast. But the truth is clear. It's the lack of jobs here."
But Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said Mr Parker was being disingenuous by showing just a few months of data, which he said made a mountain of a small mound.
"The reality is, both unemployment numbers for young people and long-term departures for young people tend to peak in the first quarter of each year once they finish tertiary study at the end of the previous year.
"So he hasn't bothered to show you his graph over a longer period of time, and that would show you, literally, that it occurs every year at that time.''
Mr Joyce said 20- to 24-year-olds were always the most mobile group of New Zealanders and there were plenty of opportunities in Australia in the oil and gas industries - industries which both Labour and the Greens did not get behind here.
He denied claims there were not enough jobs in New Zealand, saying there had been a net increase of 57,000 jobs in the two years to the end of June 2012.
Of those, there were 21,000 more jobs for 20- to 24-year-olds.