Hard times but more migrants

April 24, 2009

Harder times in the UK are boosting New Zealand’s net migration gain, figures released yesterday suggest. Permanent and long-term arrivals (immigrants planning to stay for more than a year and returning expatriates who have been away for more than a year) exceeded departures by just 300 last month, Statistics NZ reported. But when adjusted for seasonal effects, the net gain was 1720, well above the average monthly gain of 490 over the previous 12 months. It follows a net gain of 1600 in February. UBS economist Robin Clements said February and March together saw the strongest two-month net inflow since mid-2003. "This should add fundamental support for the already present early signs the housing sector is bottoming out." The main change is fewer people leaving - 5800 last month compared with an average 6900 over the previous 12 months - rather than an increase in immigration which at 7500 was only 110 higher than average. "The decline in departures reflects weakening job prospects overseas," said ASB economist Jane Turner. "The global recession has seen the job market slow considerably in both Australia and the UK. As the year progresses, she expects a small pickup in arrivals, particularly from Britain and the United States, as the New Zealand economy and labour market are expected to fare comparatively well in the global downturn. The net inflow of migrants has been on a rising trend for four months, though the annual total, 7500, is still well below the average 10,000 gain of the past 10 years.