Well, it seems we have an explanation for where Green Party co-leader got his “40,000 jobs lost in manufacturing” claim.
It is not a good explanation, but at least it is one.
The claim, made in a press release after the release of the latest manufacturing data on Monday, caused no little head scratching.
It came in a press released headed “Manufacturing languishes for four years under National” and went on to claim, “there’s no signs of clawing back any of the 40,000 jobs lost in the manufacturing sector since 2008”.
It did not seem an unreasonable inference that Dr Norman was talking of 40,000 jobs lost since the change of government. Indeed, that was clearly the inference he wanted people to draw.
The trouble is, none of the three measures of employment back this up, and NBR ONLINE took the time to explain why.
The NBR ONLINE story prompted something of an online debate, especially on Twitter, where Dr Norman demanded an apology and then conceded he was taking his figures from March-June 2008.
As his earlier statement had carefully avoided saying this, NBR ONLINE does not really feel any apology is owed.
It’s pretty easy. Since 2008 doesn’t include half of 2008. Dr Norman could have said since June 2008 but chose not to. The reason is he wanted to deceive people that the 40,000 jobs lost had happened under National, rather than it being 20,000.
99 people out of 100 would take “Since 2008” to be since December 2008, not since June 2008.
Hosking also makes another useful point:
In principle, politicians really should stop talking New Zealand down. It is shallow, cheap and easy, and it is immensely destructive.
This also applies to politicians’ staff, and to economic and political commentators. New Zealand public discourse was dominated for much of the 1970s to 1990s by an all-encompassing and corrosively negative commentary about this country’s economic prospects.
It did a huge amount of damage to the nation’s morale and skills base. At least it was, at the time, based on a real economic crisis.
When such corrosive negativity is based, as this is, on claims of a bogus “crisis” it is particularly despicable.
It is one thing to point out that the manufacturing industry has had job losses. But for a couple of years now the opposition have been trying to literally manufacture a “crisis” in manufacturing.
As an aside, jobs have grown in manufacturing over the past six months by around 5000 – which means even Dr Norman’s claim of “no signs of any clawing back” of jobs lost is just not true.
But the timing of that 2004 drop in employment is highly significant. It is also when New Zealand firms started picking up their capital investment, particularly in plant and machinery.
In short, a shift began towards more capital intensive and less labour intensive work.
Let’s burn all the machines, and we’ll have full employment!