NZ immigration booms as Kiwis desert Oz

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By Leith van Onselen

Statistics New Zealand has today released its permanent & long-term migration figures, which revealed that New Zealand net migration is at record highs as Kiwis continue to return home from Australia:

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The unadjusted figures for the September 2014 year showed New Zealand’s highest-ever net gain of 45,400 migrants. Until the August 2014 year (43,500), the high was 42,500 in the May 2003 year. Over the last 20 years (December 1994–2013 years), New Zealand’s annual net inflow of migrants has averaged 11,700.

The highest-ever net gain of migrants was driven by both more arrivals and fewer departures of permanent and long-term migrants. Migrant arrivals reached a new high of 105,500 in the September 2014 year, up 16 percent from the September 2013 year (91,200). Migrant departures numbered 60,100, down 21 percent from the previous year (76,000)…

The increase in migrant arrivals between the September 2013 and 2014 years was led by Australia (up 4,500), India (up 3,800), China (up 1,600), and the Philippines (up 1,100). The increase in arrivals from Australia included 3,300 more New Zealand citizens, and 1,200 more non-New Zealand citizens.

The fall in migrant departures was primarily due to fewer departures of New Zealand citizens to Australia (down 14,100). Migrant departures to Australia in the September 2014 year (28,600) were the lowest since the November 2004 year (28,500).

There was a net loss of 6,000 people to Australia in the September 2014 year, well down from the net losses of 25,300 in the September 2013 year and 39,500 in the September 2012 year. The latest figure is the smallest net loss to Australia since the December 1994 year (5,900).

An examination of the net migration data between New Zealand and Australia shows that the loss of Kiwis across the pond (5,986 in the year to September) has slowed to the slowest annual pace in nearly 20 years, which was when the Australian economy was still recovering from the after effects of the early-1990s recession and  (see next chart).

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In the month of September, just 68 net Kiwis left for Australia, which was the lowest monthly figure since December 1993.

As noted previously, New Zealanders should be particularly sensitive to employment prospects in Australia, and swings in migration levels between the two nations should be indicative of the underlying strength of the Australian labour market compared with the New Zealand market.

When job prospects are relatively strong in Australia, we should logically expect migration to Australia from New Zealand to increase substantially. By contrast, when Australian employment conditions weaken, we should logically expect New Zealand migration to slow.

Indeed, plotting annual Kiwi net migration against the trend Australian unemployment rate does show a strong correlation (see next chart).

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And the sharp slowing of Kiwi net migration does suggest that Australian unemployment is facing further deterioration.

Once again, Kiwi battlers have a better grip on the Australian labour market than your typical Aussie economist.

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