Story: Economic history

Unemployment, 1896–2006 (2nd of 2)

Unemployment, 1896–2006

There are no long-term official estimates of unemployment except the census. A question about unemployment was first asked in the 1896 census, although Māori were not asked until 1945. The unemployment rate (total unemployment divided by the size of the labour force) is shown in this graph.

In the first quarter of the 20th century about 2% of the labour force said they were unemployed. Unfortunately the 1931 census was abandoned as a cost-saving measure, and the 1941 one was delayed until 1945 as a part of the war effort so it is unclear what happened over the middle period, although the unemployment rate was almost certainly above 10%, and perhaps above 20%, in the early 1930s. It was probably near zero during the war. Unemployment remained low during the post-war boom, but increased after the 1966 wool price collapse. It peaked in the early 1990s at above 10%. It fell through the next decade, but not to the low levels of earlier years.

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How to cite this page:

Brian Easton, 'Economic history - Government and market liberalisation', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 21 August 2017)

Story by Brian Easton, published 11 Mar 2010