Key Points:

Wage and salary increases continue to put pressure on inflation, figures out today from Statistics New Zealand (SNZ) show.

The Labour Cost Index (LCI) recorded an increase of 3.4 per cent in salary and wage rates, including overtime, for the March 2008 year.

That matched the annual increase for the December year, and was the highest annual increase recorded since the series began in the December 1992 quarter, SNZ said.

The overtime-included LCI increase for the March 2008 quarter was 0.7 per cent, down from the previous two increases of 1.1 per cent and 0.9 per cent in the December 2007 and September 2007 quarters, respectively.

The Quarterly Employment Survey (QES) showed a 4.6 per cent annual increase in average total hourly earnings to $23.66, as the annual increase in total gross earnings exceeded the annual increase in total paid hours.

Total gross earnings increased 7.5 per cent for the March 2008 year, the QES showed.

That was up from the 7 per cent increase in the December year and was indicative of continued strength in earnings growth, SNZ said.

Employment, as measured by full-time equivalent employees increased 3.2 per cent for the March 2008 year, driven by a 4 per cent increase in full time employment.

In the March quarter the number of filled jobs fell 2.4 per cent to 1.7 million, according to the QES, mainly due to the seasonal influence of the education industry.

Part time employment showed a seasonal decrease of 7.6 per cent in the quarter while full-time employment was unchanged.

For the quarter the increase in average total hourly earnings was 1.5 per cent, as shown by the QES, compared to 1 per cent and 1.3 per cent in the previous two quarters.

Seasonally adjusted total gross earnings in the QES were up 1.3 per cent for the March quarter.

QES average earnings statistics reflect not only changes in pay rates, but also compositional and other changes across and within the paid workforce.

In comparison, the LCI measures changes in the salary and wage rates for a fixed quantity and quality of labour.

According to the LCI, in the year to the March 2008 quarter, public sector salary and wage rates, including overtime, were up 3.3 per cent. The local government sector was up 4.9 per cent, while central government lifted 3.1 per cent.

For the March quarter salary and wage rates, including overtime, for the public sector were up 0.8 per cent.

Private sector overtime-included rates in the LCI were up 3.5 per cent for the year, the largest annual increase since the series started in 1992.

For the quarter the increase in private sector rates, including overtime, was 0.7 per cent, down on the 1.1 per cent in the December quarter, which was the largest since the series started, and the 0.9 per cent in the September quarter.

- NZPA