New Zealand’s Immigration Growth Slows A Second Month

New Zealands Immigration Growth Slows a Second Month

By Tracy Withers
Bloomberg News, April 22, 2010

New Zealands annual immigration growth slowed for a second straight month in March, adding to signs of a weak economic recovery.

The number of permanent migrant arrivals exceeded departures by 20,973 in the 12 months ended March 31, Statistics New Zealand said today in Wellington. Thats down from 21,618 in the year through February.

Finance Minister Bill English yesterday said the nation isnt seeing the usual strong bounce out of recession, and that the recovery appears slower and more tentative. Fewer immigrants, rising unemployment and tight credit are curbing domestic demand, making it unlikely the central bank will increase interest rates until June at the earliest.

'Support from the net-immigration impulse is set to gradually slow,' said Jane Turner, an economist at ASB Bank Ltd. in Auckland. 'We expect housing demand to ease.'

New Zealands dollar bought 70.90 U.S. cents at 11.45 a.m. in Wellington from 70.97 cents immediately before the report.

House sales fell 12 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, according to Real Estate Institute figures. The weak housing market and the nations 7.3 percent jobless rate, the highest in 10 years, have damped domestic demand.

Monthly Arrivals

Analysts monitor a monthly, seasonally adjusted series to determine the pace of immigration. In March, a net 980 migrants arrived, the smallest gain since January 2009.

Immigration is at a turning point after rising to the highest in more than five years in January, amid signs that fewer New Zealand citizens are returning home and expectations more will head overseas to work or study.

In the year ended March, arrivals dropped 5.1 percent while permanent departures fell 22 percent, todays report showed.

About 38,892 New Zealand residents left in the year ended March 31, down from 39,119 in the year ended Feb. 28. The number of citizens headed to Australia fell to 26,405 from 26,563 in the year through February.

Short-term visitor arrivals rose 1.1 percent in March, seasonally adjusted, from February, todays report showed. The underlying trend in arrivals is declining, the agency said.

School Vacations

Unadjusted arrivals increased 7.4 percent from March last year, which may reflect earlier timing of school vacations and the Easter break, the agency said.

Promotion of New Zealand as a destination for Australian travelers has helped arrivals recover after the global recession cut international air travel last year, reducing tourist visits from Asia and Europe. Tourism makes up about 10 percent of the New Zealand economy.

Total arrivals rose 4.1 percent in the year ended March 31 from a year earlier as a 15 percent gain in Australian tourists countered slumps in visitors from Asia, which dropped 7.2 percent, todays report showed. Excluding Australia, visitors declined 3 percent.