Act leader David Seymour says the latest employment and wage figures indicate New Zealand workers are flocking overseas faster than new workers are coming into the country.
Seymour said it was incredible the unemployment rate had increased to 3.4 per cent in the last quarter despite worker shortages in almost every area of the economy – from nurses to fruit pickers and accountants.
Statistics NZ figures showed unemployment was relatively steady at 3.3 per cent for the June quarter, up from a record low of 3.2 per cent as the tight labour market continued.
Annual wage inflation was 3.4 per cent in the year ended June 2022, while average ordinary time hourly earnings rose 6.4 per cent.
Seymour said the figures showed 2000 more people were now unemployed compared to the last quarter.
"With the borders opening, Labour can't get more people in employment but they've managed to increase unemployment.
"It seems that any positives gained by the opening of the border have been made null and void by the amount of Kiwis flocking overseas."
He said 10,000 Kiwis left in the first quarter of 2022 and the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has previously predicted up to 50,000 could leave this year.
He said it was little wonder New Zealanders were leaving, given the cost of living was quickly eating up any wage increases.
National Party finance spokeswoman Nicola Willis says new wage growth statistics showed just how hard people were being pummelled by the cost of living increases, as wage growth continues to lag behind inflation.
Although the June quarter was the largest increase in the labour cost index salary and wages rates since late-2008, Willis said wage inflation was trailing well behind price inflation which was 7.3 per cent over the same period – and prices had now risen faster than wages for the past eight quarters in a row.
"Today's data release shows a very extended period of Kiwis' wages failing to keep up with rocketing prices. It confirms the grim reality: that rapidly rising prices are pummelling hard-working Kiwis as their wages lag behind prices."
Social Development and Employment Minister Carmel Sepuloni said the figures showed the Government's economic plan was working.
She said wages were rising to help with cost of living pressures, and the Government was also supporting households in most need through direct payments and the temporary cuts to fuel taxes and public transport fares.
However, Council of Trade Unions economist Craig Renney said the figures showed overall wages increased by 3.4 per cent while public sector workers had an even lower annual increase at 3 per cent.
"The increase is less than half of current inflation. More than a third of working people did not receive a pay rise last year."
"We are missing the 'wage' part of the possible wage price spiral. The incomes of working people don't appear to be driving our current inflation rates."
Sepuloni said the Government was working to try to address the labour shortages, but there were positive signs in the unemployment rates, including for Māori and Pacific people.
"Unemployment continues to be very low and firms are continuing to hire despite the uncertain global environment."
However, she warned there would be ongoing volatility in unemployment figures for some time.
"We know that some sectors and businesses are facing worker shortages."
She said measures to help included investing in skills and training and immigration settings aimed at getting skilled workers into the country.
Wage inflation is measured by the labour cost index for all salary and wage rates (including overtime).