COMMENT:

"Congratulations and jubilations, I want the world to know I'm happy as can be" - so went the lyrics to the late 1960s Cliff Richard hit song Congratulations.

You could almost hear the jukebox booming from the Beehive as the unemployment figures came through from the Statistics NZ number crunchers at well under what had been predicted by those whose job it is to tell us what to expect.

But it should have come as no surprise to those who occupy the upper levels of the building. The figures had been manipulated, not by those who compile them, but by those who have the ability to control them: the political decision-makers.

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The decision by Jacinda Ardern and Grant Robertson et al to extend the original three-month wage subsidy from June 10 for another eight weeks, taking it through until September 1, was done knowing the unemployment stats would stave off the inevitable rise of those on the dole.

The figure of 4 per cent unemployed for the June quarter through the level 4 lockdown was slightly better than the first three months of this year, essentially before Covid-19 hit.

It simply defies what will be the reality in the next quarter, which conveniently for the Government, won't be known until after the election in September.

Robertson and Employment Minister Willie Jackson proudly compared the 4.2 per cent figure to the Treasury Budget forecast of 8.3 per cent unemployment for the June quarter.

That's disingenuous.

To qualify for the extension was much harder than the initial offering and Treasury would have made its forecast based on a much lower uptake.

To be categorised as unemployed there are three criteria.

A person must not have a job - half a million did thanks to the subsidy.

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They must be available to start work - they weren't because they were being kept on with the subsidy in the hope a business would survive.

They must have been actively seeking a job during the previous four weeks or due to start one over the following four weeks - the subsidy and the lockdown put paid to that.

Take the case of the redundant pilot who wrote to me.

A redundancy payout took him out of the system. The tax bill on it after 25 years was $60,000 and he sought the Jobseeker benefit support, waiting four months before hearing anything. His wife meantime had got a part-time job so he got nothing.

He surmises the system penalises those who try and rewards those who don't.

For Ardern to claim we've weathered the storm better than they anticipated is also disingenuous.

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Not as much has been spent on the second wage subsidy as anticipated, she crowed.
Hardly a surprise considering it was much harder to get than the first and a number of businesses that qualified for the first have gone belly up.

The unemployment fallout from those are now being felt but won't be seen until after the election which will deny National the ammunition to impact on it.

Take it away Cliff: Who would have believed I could have been happy and contented?