Labour Force Unemployment

Why is this important?

Measuring the proportion of people in the labour force helps to show the country’s production capability and job market trends. The size of the labour force is critical to the region’s ability to produce goods and services. Short-term changes in the participation rate are linked to current job market conditions, which can vary with cycles of business growth. 

Young people in their late teens and early twenties generally have the highest unemployment rates in the population and tend to be the most vulnerable to job losses during economic downturns. Difficulty managing the transition from education to employment may result in challenging economic and social circumstances and a risk of poor outcomes later in life.

Key points

  • In the December 2018 quarter, 4.5% of the Christchurch labour force was unemployed, compared to 3.8% for Canterbury and 4.5% for New Zealand.
  • Over the same period, 9.8% of 15-19 year olds and 14.7% of 20-24 year olds in Canterbury were not in education, employment or training (NEET). This was an increase of 0.7% from the previous quarter for 15-19 year olds, and an increase of 3.8% for 20-24 year olds.

Note this is an interactive chart and you can click on the legend items to change what is shown on the graph.


The reasonably high levels of unemployment from 2009 onwards reflected the impact of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC). Unemployment dropped though, in Christchurch and Canterbury, due to increased employment opportunities with the rebuilding of Christchurch following the 2010-11 earthquakes. The national unemployment rate only tracked down to match by the end of 2016.

NEET rates tend to follow unemployment trends in the wider population, however the spike for 20-24 year olds in Canterbury followed the 2010-11 earthquakes in Christchurch. Unemployment levels in this age group then dropped lower than the national rate for several years afterwards, perhaps reflecting more employment opportunities with the rebuild of Christchurch as well as some young people departing the city to take up education and employment elsewhere. In 2018, Canterbury NEET rates stayed fairly close to national rates.

Note: the labour force data and commentary is adapted from the Christchurch and Canterbury Economic Report (December quarter). Reproduced with permission. The NEET data is sourced from Statistics New Zealand.

Data notes

Employment statistics count and describe people in New Zealand with paid jobs.

Unemployment statistics count and describe people who don't have a paid job but could be working.

Statistics New Zealand define an unemployed person as someone who:

  • has no paid job
  • is working age
  • is available for work, and
  • has looked for work in the past four weeks or has a new job to start within the next four weeks.

The Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS) produces regular quarterly estimates of the NEET population at national and regional levels, and allows analysis of their demographic, educational, and labour market characteristics.

The HLFS measure is a point-in-time estimate that shows whether people were NEET at the time they were surveyed. It does not identify the duration of their NEET spell or whether they have had recurring NEET spells (unless these occur within the period of up to two years that they are in the HLFS sample).

Data information and downloads

Data Source

All data from Statistics New Zealand’s Household Labour Force Survey. Unemployment rate - tailored data for ChristchurchNZ, Christchurch and Canterbury Economic Report.(external link)

Data Access

Economic report from ChristchurchNZ website, tables on request. NEET data from Statistics New Zealand’s Infoshare table builder(external link).

Date Updated

Quarterly (to December 2018)

Page Updated 

May 2019

Data downloads

Geographic Area

Christchurch City, Canterbury and New Zealand

Other Download vVariables


Data Table Download

Download tables here [XLSX, 22 KB]

Links to other information and reports