Manawatū-Whanganui is leading the way when it comes to decreased unemployment, with the region recording the largest drop in the country over the past year.

The Statistics New Zealand data shows the region's unemployment rate is 4.5 per cent, which is down 2.1 per cent.

Whanganui & Partners chief executive Mark Ward said it was great news for Whanganui but not much of a surprise.

"It represents an increase in opportunities available to our residents, which in turn reflects strong business growth and confidence in our local economy."

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Statistics New Zealand could not break down the data to Whanganui only, so the numbers are influenced by Palmerston North and other towns in the region.

Ward said Whanganui's annual GDP growth, consumer spending and house prices are all tracking higher than national average increases.

"We're playing catch-up with a lot of these metrics, so outperforming the nation is an absolute necessity for our region. It's encouraging to see that we're achieving it."

Nationally the unemployment rate dropped to 3.9 per cent which is the lowest it's been since June 2008.

"We're on the right track, but we still have a way to go before our unemployment rate is below the national average," Ward said.

"We're also competing against other regions for new residents, businesses and visitors.

"Despite the national trend, two regions in the North Island saw unemployment go up so we can't become complacent about our growing economy."

Ward said it's crucial Whanganui & Partners finds ways to reduce inequality and enable full participation in the rapidly growing economy, with housing being a key issue.

Data was only collected at a regional level so figures on the Whanganui district's unemployment was not available.

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