NZ immigration continues retrace as Aussies head home

By Leith van Onselen

Statistics New Zealand released its permanent & long-term migration figures for October 2018, which revealed that immigration into New Zealand has continued to drift back from record high levels, with 61,751 annual net permanent and long-term arrivals landing in New Zealand in the year to October, down from a peak of 72,402 recorded in the year to July 2017:

According to Statistics New Zealand:

For the October 2018 year compared with the October 2017 year:

  • migrant arrivals were 128,100, down 3,500
  • migrant departures were 66,400, up 5,400.

Net migration from Australia to New Zealand continues to turn negative, with 1,879 leaving New Zealand for Australia in the year to October. This is down from the recent peak flow of 1,965 people that moved to New Zealand from Australia in the year to September 2016:

As pointed out each month, 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.

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

The below chart plots annual Kiwi net migration against the trend Australian unemployment rate:

As you can see, the correlation is strong. And Australia’s improved labour market has encouraged a net inflow of Kiwis back to Australia. However, this force is mitigated somewhat by New Zealand’s labour market being even stronger:

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