Stat games: National nonsense about employment

If National is going to keep shining up shit and calling it gold, then I am going to keep exposing it as shit.

National’s latest foray into creatively interpreting statistics to make itself look good is about employment. As the chart below illustrates, the unemployment rate is at its highest level in about the last ten years, and normally we would say this means we aren't doing much good in managing the economy so that people have jobs.


“Not so fast!” thunders John Key.

Both in question time and the budget debate last week, he trumpeted National’s incredible jobs achievement:

“… New Zealand now has more jobs that it has ever had in the history of this country. I do not call that failure.” Taddah!

Um, John, more people have jobs now because New Zealand has more people now. It has very little to do with you. Unless, of course, you are about to start taking credit for breeding...


As the chart shows, the number of people in work rises pretty much every quarter, unless there is a large-scale problem like a Global Financial Crisis. More people, more jobs.

The unemployment rate is a much better indicator of government economic management than is the raw number of jobs around.

Then again, what if we did adopt John Key’s “more jobs than ever before” standard for judging government economic success? How would the last two governments perform on that score?

  • Labour achieved the “more jobs than ever before” standard in 30 of its 36 quarters in office, earning an 83% A.
  • National has so far achieved the standard in only 4 of its 13 quarters in office, for a 31% F.

Still want to stick with the stupid statistic? Desperation is a stinky cologne, John.