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Big jump in migration to Australia reported

JAMES WEIR

Migration plunged in September, and the net annual inflow is the lowest for a decade, as many people left the country after the Christchurch quake in February.In worse than expected figures, net migration turned negative again in September with a loss of 700 people, because of a big jump in people leaving for Australia.

The net loss of migrants pointed to continued weakness in domestic consumer demand, so there was no urgency for the Reserve Bank to lift official interest rates, ASB economists said. The rush of people moving to Australia has continued, despite reports of a weaker job market across the Tasman, economists said. Unadjusted figures showed a net outflow of just over 2900 migrants to Australia in September 2011, the highest recorded for a September month. In the September year, there was a net outflow of almost 46,000 to Australia. ASB Bank economist Jane Turner expected the rush to Australia to slow down in coming months as Australia´s job growth slowed, while the labour market here gradually picked up.

Steady jobs growth in the coming year was expected to prompt skill shortages, which would encourage a pick-up in people moving to New Zealand, Turner said. In August, there was a small net gain in migration, breaking the steady monthly stream of people leaving since February. But for the past 12 months, the total balance of people arriving and leaving permanently is only just positive, with a net gain of about 800, the lowest levels of net migration for a decade. The net gain for the year was down from 13,900 the previous year.

Strong net migration has, in the past, supported the housing market and given a boost to retailers.

However, ANZ Bank economist Sharon Zollner said that while New Zealand was not immune to a weaker global economy “we are better placed than most”.

ANZ expected more people to come to New Zealand and a return to a net inflow of people, with the job market holding up compared with a “rapidly worsening global backdrop” she said.

A turnaround in net migration and still low interest rates would give domestic spending and the housing market some mild support “though we are not anticipating a boom”.

– BusinessDay.co.nz